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May 10, 2011

Locating new fawns is next step in deer research project; volunteers needed

MADISON - Dozens of volunteers assisted state wildlife researchers in capturing and placing radio-collars on 204 deer in February and March. Now the call is going out again for volunteers to help locate fawns born to does that were fitted with implant radio transmitters designed to signal when fawns have been born in late May and early June.

"With the whitetail birthing season coming up fast, volunteers are again needed to sweep the woods looking for the newborns," said Chris Jacques, Department of Natural Resources research scientist. "When located, fawns will be fitted with expandable radio collars so we can follow them through their first year of life to determine causes of death whether it be due to nutrition, environment, vehicle, hunters or predators. This is real hands-on field research."

Some hunters have questioned assumptions about fawn recruitment used by wildlife biologists for estimating deer populations. Recruitment is the net addition of new individuals (fawns) to a population each year and is an important input in estimating deer population numbers. At the end of this three-year effort to monitor fawns, researchers hope to fine tune their inputs based on real-world data collected in this research effort.

Volunteers will be assigned to search teams working in the vicinity of Shiocton in Shawano County and Winter in Sawyer County. When transmitters have been expelled (presumably when a fawn has been born), a search team will form a line and comb the woods, somewhat similar to a deer drive, in search of bedded fawns. Newborns will be quickly fitted with a radio collar of their own and left for the doe to raise normally.

If the fawn dies, the collar will emit a unique signal that researchers will again use to locate the animal to determine cause of death. The collars are designed to expand as the deer grows and eventually drop off as the animal approaches its first birthday.

"Determining causes of death in fawns is vital to the accuracy of our deer population estimates," said Jacques. "Of special interest is the impact of predators on fawn deaths. We have a suite of predators in Wisconsin that we suspect impact yearly fawn production, including black bear, bobcat, coyote and gray wolves. What we are less certain of are the relative roles that each of those predators plays on fawn recruitment over the course of an entire year."

He stresses this work is possible only with the assistance of dozens of volunteers representing hunting groups such as the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Safari Club International and Whitetails Unlimited, the University of Wisconsin- Madison and UW-Stevens Point, the AFL-CIO Union Sportsmans Alliance, and hundreds of Wisconsin citizens.

"Anyone who has looked for newborn fawns or been startled to discover a fawn lying motionless in the forest or field next to them knows what a challenge it is to find them," says Jacques. "They have excellent natural camouflage and instinct to remain absolutely still when approached. The transmitters will give us a better idea of where they are but it will still take time on the ground to locate them."

For more information and to sign up as a volunteer go to the Deer Research page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Jacques - (608) 221-6358 or Bob Manwell - (608) 264-9248

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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