Post-recruitment Survival of White-tailed Deer Fawns in Southern Illinois

Reliable estimates of survival for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawns are needed for sound deer management. Several studies have estimated fawn survival prior to recruitment (i.e., before the onset of hunting season) but few have monitored fawns post-recruitment, especially in the lower Midwest or Southeast. We captured and radiocollared 166 neonatal fawns during 2002-2004 in southern Illinois. Ninety-one fawns survived to recruitment and were monitored for survival from 1 October until the end of the firearm hunting season (typically 8 December). Post-recruitment survival was 0.73 (95% CI = 0.63 - 0.83). Hunter harvest was the primary source of mortality (13%) followed by vehicle collisions (8%). Male and female harvest mortality was 14% and 12%, respectively, and did not differ (P = 0.73). By monitoring radiocollared fawns through the firearm hunting season, we were able to estimate proportion of fawns harvested in southern Illinois without biases associated with harvest data. We also suggest vehicle collisions are another important source of mortality for fawns and should be incorporated into population models and management decisions.

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