By Roger Sabota
Special to the Star Journal
At this time of the year many who work with wildlife, including DNR wildlife biologists, receive calls from people who have found a fawn and are thinking that it has been abandoned by its mother. Their advice is always to “Leave it alone! The doe will return.” New born fawns have very little if any scent which would be picked up by predators. To aid in this the doe consumes the afterbirth.
After fawns are born the doe leaves them hidden in tall grass or other suitable cover. Helping to camouflage the fawns are their spots that are kept until they are three to four-months old when they begin to fade as the fawn grows its thicker coat in preparation for winter. She will visit the fawns three to four times a day to nurse them. Most often the first time a doe gives birth it will be only one. After that she may have twins or possibly triplets.
The doe that has left the fawn that appears to be abandoned will always be close by. Frequently, as we have been fishing we have observed, a doe nursing her fawn close to the edge of the water.
Fawns can walk at birth but their stomach is not fully developed. The milk they receive from their mother is very high in nutrients. They will consume the mother’s milk for about eight weeks. As they get older they will eat grass, leaves and fruits. After about eight weeks they will accompany their mother on her search for food. The fawns don’t graze alone. The mother hides them separately while she feeds to help prevent predators from attacking. The main predators on deer are wolves, coyotes, mountain lions and dogs. Bear also prey on fawns.
Most fawns are born in late May or early June. However, there is evidence to show that in Wisconsin fawns have been born in every month of the year. Of course fawns born in the wild in harsh weather such as Wisconsin winters have a very low rate of survival.
On one of the cool, rainy days last week we decided to venture out on some of the back roads in our area with the hope of possibly seeing some deer and with a little luck maybe a fawn. We only saw three deer and no fawns. Of course we knew that it was most likely too early in the season to see a fawn close to even very lightly traveled roads.
An animal that is now being regularly observed, especially around bird feeders, is the black bear. They have survived the winter using the fat stored in their bodies and are now in need of food. Bears tend to be solitary except for mothers and cubs. At this time of the year they feed on green grass and carrion.
Cubs that are out and about now have spent the winter in a den with their mother. Sows could have up to six cubs with two being the most common. hey will remain with her for about a year-and-a-half or more. At that time she will send them on their way to take care of themselves. She may start a new family after the cubs have left.
The opening of musky season was last weekend – Memorial Weekend. Normally when musky season opens the water is still cold and the fish are somewhat lethargic. As the water warms the muskies will become more active. Thus far I haven’t spent any time in the boat searching for muskies. I talked with Bill Jacobs, President of the Headwaters Muskies Inc. Chapter in Eagle River, and he reported that during the outing held last Saturday there were five legal fish caught by the 34 anglers who participated in this activity. Of course catch and release was practiced.
The fishing I have done thus far has been for crappies. I was out several times and caught a few. Some were a good size. The weather patterns we have had with the temperatures rising and then after a short time falling has not helped the crappie fishing.
Last weekend we were privileged to have several of our children and grandchildren here. The major emphasis during the weekend was helping us complete a variety of outdoor chores. The dock is always there to provide a break from the chores and an attempt to catch a few fish. Our grandchildren have always enjoyed fishing from the dock from the time they were quite small. Back then they wore life jackets and were always accompanied by an adult. When they were really young they could hardly hold the rod by themselves but got so excited when they could reel in a fish.
That picture has really changed now that they are all self-sufficient and can do it all themselves. Gramma Judy says she has lost her job of baiting their hooks and removing the fish.
Speaking about fishing; this weekend is free fishing weekend in Wisconsin. No license is needed but all the other rules pertaining to fishing must still be followed.
Longtime Northwoods outdoor enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.