When Do Fawns Lose Their Spots

When Do Fawns Lose Their Spots?

Written By: Ian @ World Deer

Baby deer are called fawns. They’re easily recognizable not only because of their size but also their white spots. These spots help fawns better camouflage themselves and survive, but on most deer, a fawn’s spots are temporary and don’t stay forever. Fawns eventually lose their spots as they grow and mature into does and bucks. Let’s find out the answer to your question, when do fawns lose their spots?

When fawns lose their spots varies by the specific deer species. In this article, we’ll mainly focus on white-tailed deer, as they’re the most common type of deer in North America, but we’ll also touch upon a few other types of deer.

When Do Fawns Lose Their Spots? (Answered)

Fawns typically lose their spots by the time they’re six months old. For white-tailed deer, this process usually happens when they’re about four or five months old. Fawns lose their spots when their first coat of fur sheds to make room for a newer and thicker coat, which doesn’t have spots.

Why Do Baby Deer Have Spots?

Let’s learn more about why fawns have spots and why they lose them. In this article we’ll also share a brief explanation of how you can discern a fawn’s age and how to tell whether a young deer is a buck or doe.

Why Do Baby Deer Have Spots?

The main purpose of a baby deer’s spots is camouflage against the deer’s natural predators.

Young fawns don’t have the leg height or strength necessary to run fast enough for them to reliably escape from predators and other threats.

This is why camouflage is so important.

When Do Fawns Lose Their Spots?

Additionally, young fawns have a sense of smell that is slow to develop, and are unable to tell when a predator is approaching. They have to rely on the actions of other deer around them to know when there is danger nearby.

If other deer start running or perk their ears up to listen around them, a baby fawn will generally drop to the ground and curl into a fetal position.

The white spots on the fawn’s back are effective camouflage against predators in this position.

The sunlight creates a dotted pattern as it shines through the forest’s leaves and trees. The ground then looks spotted as a result, making it the perfect hiding place for a spotted fawn. 

Do All Fawns Have Spots?

While most deer fawns are born with spots, there are a few exceptions to this.

A few deer subspecies aren’t born with white spots. Examples include the moose and reindeer.

Do All Fawns Have Spots?

However, the offspring of these deer subspecies are more commonly referred to as calves (instead of fawns) because of their larger size.

The offspring of moose and reindeer don’t have spots because their environment doesn’t call for them. They both live in a primarily cold climate where the sun isn’t present as much.

As a result, they don’t need to camouflage themselves on the sunny forest ground. That’s why they don’t need white spots.

Additionally, some species of deer are spotted even at maturity.

Some Deer Are Spotted Even As Adults

The Axis Deer, Persian Fallow Deer, and Sika Deer are a few examples of deer that never lose their spots.

When Do Whitetail Deer Lose Their Spots?

White Tailed Deer typically lose their spots around four to five months of age.

When fawns are first born, they have a very hard time walking. Their legs are usually very weak and wobbly, and they don’t fully learn to walk until they are about a week old.

When Do Whitetail Deer Lose Their Spots?

While fawns aren’t born with their own scent, they do develop one as soon as one week after birth.

When danger is near, the fawn drops to the ground immediately and curls itself up as small as it can. The mother then leads the predator away from her fawn. She’ll return when the coast is clear.

Very young fawns are often left alone to hide as their mothers forage for food, because the best way to protect them is to allow them to stay hidden in grass and leaves.

The coat the fawn was born with will start to shed when it reaches four or five months of age. This process gets rid of the white spots on the fawn’s back since it doesn’t need them anymore.

The fawn will still stay with its mother until it reaches about a year old. At that point, its legs are strong and long enough for it to run from predators on its own.

How Baby Deer Spots Aid in Their Survival?

The ground looks speckled and dotted with white when natural sunlight shines through the leaves and trees of the forest. This is especially true for animals, who have different vision than humans.

Predators of deer, such as bears and wolves, spot deer by either smelling their scent or seeing the solid color of their coats which stands out from the forest around them.

How Baby Deer Spots Aid in Their Survival?

The eyes of most forest predators have trouble seeing lighter colors, mainly white. As a result, fawns become hard to spot when they’re curled up on the ground.

The fawn’s white spots help them blend in better with the white dotted ground around them, the variation in coat color blending in with their surroundings. Fawns will stay completely still, even if the predator is getting near them.

Any fawn has a better chance of survival if it stays put and doesn’t try to run. If it tries to run away, the predator will probably see and catch it.

Fawns are harder for predators to spot if they stay still on the ground, which is why if you ever happen upon a young deer in the woods that is curled in grass you should leave it there. It’s probably just fine and its mother will return for it when it senses things are safe.

Deer Behavior That Helps Protect Fawns From Predators

Sometimes a fawn’s white spots (and the fact they’re born without a scent) aren’t enough by themselves to keep these baby animals safe.

That’s why deer have characteristics and behaviors to help keep their young safe from predators and other threats.

How Deer Protect Their Fawns

The most common methods that deer use to protect their young are:

  • Hiding them in the center of the herd
  • The mother of the fawn running away to distract the predator
  • Fawns not being born with a scent, making them harder for predators to find

Since baby deer are the weakest in a herd and the most susceptible to predators, the rest of the herd may hide them in the center for protection.

If the herd is traveling somewhere, the fawns will walk alongside their mothers.

When a fawn is born, the mother will create a small nesting bed for the fawn to sleep while it grows.

During that time, the mother will come to feed her young fawn and make sure it’s safe. This goes on for about a week and a half until the fawn is strong enough to walk by its mother.

How Can You Tell How Old A Fawn Is?

You can estimate a fawn’s age by looking at its behavior and physical characteristics.

Younger fawns aren’t as brave as older fawns. They tend to stick with their mothers more, following them closely for protection.

How Can You Tell How Old A Fawn Is?

Older fawns, however, are more willing to explore the forest around them and walk a distance from their mothers.

Another telling behavior is how the fawn reacts when startled. If it freezes up and falls to the ground, it’s probably a younger fawn. If it sprints away, it’s likely to be an older fawn. If it stares at you, or stomps the ground, then it’s likely approaching maturity.

Physical characteristics are another effective way to discern a fawn’s age. The most telling one is the absence or presence of spots.

A fawn that still has its white spots is still very young. But if it only has a few spots or has completely shed them and has grown its adult coat, it’s likely four months or older.

How Do You Tell If A Fawn is A Buck or a Doe?

The only clear way to tell if a young fawn is male or female is to check its genital area, or to observe it urinating. There really aren’t any obvious characteristics that can tell you a fawn is male or female from afar as they probably haven’t started to grow antlers.

How to Tell if a Fawn is Male or Female?

Once a male fawn gets to about four or five months old, pedicles will appear on its head.

It will become what we call a “button buck.” Antlers won’t appear until the fawn is a yearling, when it’s about one year old or one and a half years old.

Now You Know When Fawns Lose Their Spots

The white spots on a fawn are an incredibly valuable survival tool. However, once the animal is old enough and able to run, fawns lose their spots as their first coat is replaced by a thicker and more mature coat.

Without the little white spots on their backs, most fawns wouldn’t survive their vulnerable early days in the wild.

Picture of By: Ian from World Deer

By: Ian from World Deer

A passionate writer for WorldDeer using the most recent data on all animals with a keen focus on deer species.

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