Home page


Call the Fawn Hotline – 1-812-822-3308

Or email us at deerstudy@bsu.edu

Tim Carter
Ball State University
Dept of Biology

Dept of Biology

 This page contains the full proposal as funded by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Fawn mortality and dispersal study in indiana


Timothy C. Carter

Associate Professor

Department of Biology

Ball State University

Muncie, IN 47306-0440


Email: tccarter@bsu.edu

Ph: 765-285-8842

Fx: 765-285-8804



Timeline of Project:                 January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2015         


Authorizing Official:             Justin M. Miller, Director                                                                   

                                          Sponsored Programs Office

                                          Ball State University

                                          2000 W University Ave

                                          Muncie, IN 47306


Institutional Signatory:         Mr. Bernard M. Hannon, Associate Vice President,

                                          Business Affairs and Assistant Treasurer                                                      

                                          Contracts & Grants Office         


Brief Introduction

The basic elements of managing any species, including white-tailed deer (WTD; Odocoileus virginianus), involve managing births and deaths. Understanding these two parameters allows resource managers to make management decisions to impact these factors and alter the population balance in one direction or the other. Mortality in WTD is often estimated using hunting success and deer-vehicle collisions as an index.  These types of data are easily obtained in Indiana from insurance agencies or IN DNR (e.g. Stewart 2011), though the exact relationship between these indices and the population is not exactly known. Many studies have suggested that WTD survival is greater in urban and suburban habitats primarily because of reduced predation and increased fawn survival (Etter et al. 2002, Rohm et al. 2007).  Adult WTD survival plays a significant role in population dynamics, and the related mechanisms are well studied, fairly predictable, and somewhat manageable (Miller et al. 2003). While the factors affecting fawn survival are fairly well understood, they are not easily predicted or managed and thus may have the greatest impact on population growth (Miller et al. 2011). Fawn survival studies have been widely conducted across the country (see Grovenburg et al. 2012a and 2012b, Grovenburg et al. 2011, Nelson and Woolf 1987, Carstensen et al. 2009, Hiller et al. 2008, Storm et al. 2007, Rohm et al. 2007, Saalfeld and Ditchkoff 2007), but none have been conducted in Indiana. Furthermore, no published studies have compared the difference in fawn survival between urban/suburban habitats and rural habitats within the same general area and thus allow for a direct comparison. Understanding the relative difference in fawn survival between these two habitats is critical in understanding and possibly explaining differences in population densities between these areas.

Two additional parameters that can complicate the management of a species include immigration and emigration. While WTD are not known as a migratory species, there are many examples of deer movements related to fawning behavior in does and movements of animals to locate more suitable habitat (Miller et al. 2003).  Since predation has been shown to be less in suburban/urban habitats, WTD movements, especially in young animals or pregnant does, may be a possible explanation for the increased in population densities observed in suburban/urban habitats (Etter et al. 2002). Therefor a clear understanding of the extent and types of dispersal patterns between urban/suburban habitats and rural habitats is also critical for creating informed management decisions.

Addressing modern issues of increased suburban/urban deer populations and creating successful species management plans is predicated on collecting high-quality data from local populations of WTD. This proposed project will collect information on and analyze the survival and dispersal of WTD fawns. These data play a critical role in understanding the population dynamics of the Indiana white-tailed deer herd.

Statement of Objectives

The objective of this study is to determine the mortality and dispersal of fawns in urban and rural areas.  These data will allow a series of questions to be examined.  The fawn mortality data will help us understand not only the fawn contribution to population dynamics of deer herds but also if fawn survival is greater in urban/suburban areas compared to rural areas as well as if fawn survival in Indiana is similar to survival in other states.  Answers to these questions may help explain differences in population densities in urban versus rural landscapes.  Similarly, fawn dispersal data can be used to determine if dispersal is a major factor in increased deer densities often observed in urban/suburban areas and does fawn dispersal differ between urban and rural areas.  These answers may further help explain these population density differences and help determine which management strategies may work the most effectively.

Discussion of Proposed Methodology

Project Site.

The city of Bloomington, Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and possibly Yellowwood State Forests provides ideal locales to study WTD fawn mortality and dispersal in both urban and rural areas. 

Fawn Capture

Fawns will be located using nocturnal spotlight searches and grounds searches by day while using doe postpartum behavior as evidence of fawn presence (Grovenburg et al. 2012a, Huegel et al. 1985, White et al. 1972, Downing and McGinnes 1969). Fawns will be captured by quickly and loudly approaching to induce a “drop” response.  Fawns that run will be chased and captured using nets if needed (Nelson and Woolf 1987). Capture location will be recorded with a GPS.  To minimize stress to the fawns and minimize the chance of abandonment, researchers will wear sterile gloves, remain as quiet as possible and attempt to keep processing time to under 4 minutes.  Additionally, fawns will be blind folded to keep them calm.  Fawn age will be estimated using hoof measurements as described by Haugen and Speake (1958).  Fawns will be weight by placing them in a cloth bag and suspending them briefly from a spring scale. Each summer approximately 25 fawns from urban areas and 25 fawns from rural areas will be fitted with radio collars (model M4210; ATS, Isanti, MN) that are expandable to accommodate growth to adult size (Diefenbach et al. 2003). To reduce foreign odors, transmitters and other equipment, when possible, will be stored outside in natural vegetation native to the capture location and following transmitter attachment fawns will be rubbed with local vegetation (Grovenburg et al. 2012b). All methods follow guidelines approved by the American Society of Mammalogists and will be approved by the BSU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee prior to project initiation.

Fawn Mortality Assessment

Radio collars have a projected life of over 1000 days, and include a mortality signal to indicate if the collar is dropped or the animal dies. Mortality (or a dropped collar) is detected by changes in the radio signal pulse rate.  We will home in on these mortality signals to determine exact location.  Dead fawns will be photographed as found and the fawn and local area will be examined in attempt to determine cause of mortality. 

Fawn Dispersal Assessment

Fawns will be located using standard multi-station triangulation techniques (Springer 1979, Schmutz and White 1990) or visual observation when available.  Fawns will be located 1-2 times per day until approximately 3 months of age, then fawns will be located approximately 1-2 times per week until the end of November of birth year. 

Data Analysis and Dissemination

Fawn locations estimated using triangulation will be calculated using the program Locate III (Nams 2006) or similar software.  The coordinates of fawn locations will be entered into GIS and spatial maps will be generated to examine dispersal over time (Grovenburg et al. 2012b).  Survival/mortality of each fawn will be recorded until the end of November of the birth year (approx. 6.5 months).  Fawn mortality will be compared between years, study areas (urban vs. rural), and age and gender of fawns.  Dispersal will be compared using similar variables.  All data analysis will be part of a master’s thesis project.  The student is expected to begin in May of 2013 with two field seasons of the summer/autumn of 2013 and 2014.  Final thesis preparation will likely continue into spring and possibly summer of 2015.  Following the successful completion of the MS program, the results of the project will be disseminated in the peer-reviewed literature such as the Journal of Wildlife Management.


Schedule For Field Survey, Data Compilation, and Project Reporting 

Task                                                                      Target Dates                                                       

Order Transmitters (50 each year)                        January 2013 & 2014

Field Season Prep                                                 March and April 2013 & 2014

Capture Fawns                                                      May and June 2013 & 2014

Track Fawns Daily                                                May – August 2013 & 2014

Track Fawns Weekly                                            August – December 2013 & 2014

Data Compilation                                                  May 2013 - December 2014

Data Analysis                                                        September – May 2013 & 2014

Final Reports and Publication                               December 2015


Literature Cited

Carstensen, M., G.D. Delgiudice, B.A. Sampson, and D.W. Kuehn. 2009. Survival, birth characteristics, and cause-specific mortality of white-tailed deer neonates. Journal of Wildlife Management 73:175–183.

Diefenbach, D. R., C. O. Kochanny, J. K. Vreeland, and B. D. Wallingford. 2003. Evaluation of an expandable, breakaway radiocollar for white-tailed deer fawns. Wildlife Society Bulletin 31:756-761.

Downing, R.L., and B.S. McGinnes. 1969. Capturing and marking white-tailed deer fawns. Journal of Wildlife Management 33:711–714.

Etter, D.R., K.M. Hollis, T.R. Van Deelen, D.R. Ludwig, J.E. Chelsvig, C.L. Anchor, and R.E. Warner. 2002. Survival and movements of white-tailed deer in suburban Chicago, Illinois. Journal of Wildlife Management 66:500–510.

Grovenburg, T.W., C.C. Swanson, C.N. Jacques, R.W. Klaver, T.J. Brinkman, B.M. Burris, C.S. DePerno, and J.A. Jenks. 2011. Survival of white-tailed deer neonates in Minnesota and South Dakota. Journal of Wildlife Management 75:213–220.

Grovenburg, T.W., R.W. Klaver, and J.A. Jenks. 2012a.   Survival of White-Tailed Deer Fawns in the Grasslands of the Northern Great Plains. Journal of Wildlife Management 76:944–956.

Grovenburg, T.W., R.W. Klaver, and J.A. Jenks. 2012b. Spatial ecology of white-tailed deer fawns in the northern Great Plains: Implications of loss of conservation reserve program grasslands. Journal of Wildlife Management 76:632–644.

Haskell, S.P., W.B. Ballard, D.A. Butler, N.M. Tatman, M.C. Wallace, C.O. Kochanny, and O.J. Alcumbrac. 2007. Observations on capturing and aging deer fawns. Journal of Mammalogy 88:1482-1487.

Haugen, A. O., and D. W. Speake. 1958. Determining age of young fawn white-tailed deer. Journal of Wildlife Management 22:319–321.

Hiller, T.L., H. Campa, S.R. Winterstein, and B.A. Rudolph. 2008. Survival and space use of fawn white-tailed deer in Southern Michigan. American Midland Naturalist 159:403-412.

Huegel, C.N., R.B. Dahlgren, and H.L. Gladfelter. 1985. Use of doe behavior to capture white-tailed deer fawns. Wildlife Society Bulletin 13:287–289.

Miller K.V., L.I. Muller, and S. Demarias. 2003.  White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). In Felhmamer G.A., B.C. Thompson, and J.A. Chapman (eds.) 2003. Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore MD. 1216pp.

Nams, V.O. 2006. Locate III User’s Guide. Pacer Computer Software, Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Nelson, T.A., and A. Woolf. 1987. Mortality of white-tailed deer fawns in Southern Illinois. Journal of Wildlife Management 51:326–329.

Nielsen, C.K. and Porter, W.F. 2011.  Ecology and management of deer in developed landscapes: An introduction. Wildlife Society Bulletin 35:124–125.

Rohm, J.H., C.K. Nielsen, and A. Woolf. 2007. Survival of white-tailed deer fawns in Southern Illinois. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:851–860.

Saalfeld, S.T. and S.S. Ditchkoff. 2007. Survival of neonatal white-tailed deer in an exurban population. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:940–944.

Schmutz J.A., and G.C. White. 1990. Error in telemetry studies: effects of animal movements on triangulation. Journal of Wildlife Management 54:506-510.

Springer J.T. 1979. Some sources of bias and sampling error in radio triangulation. Journal of Wildlife Management 43:926-935.

Stewart, C.M. 2011. 2011 Indiana deer season summary. Indiana Department of Natural Resources. 15 pp. http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/files/fw-2011_Deer_Season_Summary.pdf.

Storm, D.J., C.K. Nielsen, E.M. Schauber, and A. Woolf. 2007. Space use and survival of white-tailed deer in an exurban landscape. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:1170–1176.

White, M., F.F. Knowlton, and W.C. Glazener. 1972. Effects of dam newborn fawn behavior on capture and mortality. Journal of Wildlife Management 36:897–906.