Depending on the position in the food chain, each creature is destined to follow a certain path of life. Whether that be prey or predator, one thing is common to all creatures in the animal kingdom. Each life starts with birth, and ends in death. Deer are no exception. So where do deer go to give birth so that they can protect themselves and their young?
While you have probably seen many videos on the internet of animals giving birth, these instances are far different from what happens in nature.
Here, we will be discussing everything there is to know about deer birth, such as where they go, how it’s done, and the entire deer life cycle.
Unlike humans, wild deer do not have the luxury of having assistance during labor and delivery. However, they do follow a similar path from conception all the way to the birth of their offspring.
Just like in humans, after mating occurs, does carry their young to term during a gestation period, and take care for their young after birth. There are slight differences in the length and nature of these periods depending on the different species. Generally, the process is similar across different deer species, especially in white tailed deer.
Where do Deer Go to Give Birth?
Someplace secluded, with excellent cover, usually a meadow.
Deer share the instinct to protect their young with virtually all species, but the way they help their fawn survive (by leaving it hidden so predators cannot find it) in the days following birth dictate the location in which a doe delivers her young.
Every part of the reproductive cycle of deer is done to ensure the health and safety of their offspring:
- Mating – deer choose the strongest mate so offspring will be more likely to thrive,
- Gestation – does carry young to term so that it is born when adequate cover and food is available, and
- Birth – deer choose the perfect location which will allow the fawn to remain concealed until strong enough to run from predators.
As mentioned earlier, deer have mating periods and unique mating habits. This is called “rutting season” and usually takes place between late summer and early fall, just before winter.
Most male deer spar with one another in order to attract a mate as part of their annual mating ritual. Male deer often lose their antlers following the rut when their testosterone levels drop. When this happens, another pair usually grows back, covered in a velvety fuzz, which is shed just in time for the next rutting season.
The gestational period for most deer lasts for around 250 days or 10 months.
This varies between species. For example, the white-tailed deer has an average gestation period of 201 days, but Roe Deer average a 290 day gestation.
Gestation takes up the whole duration of the winter season and the baby fawn will be ready for birth by the spring.
Labor and Delivery
Deer have innate instincts that let them know when something is coming. This includes birth. About 1-3 days before deer give birth, the female deer will be able to sense this and find her spot to give birth to her offspring.
Female deer usually have between 1-3 offspring in their lifetimes and they sometimes come out as twins. Again, this varies across different types of deer, with some of the smaller species having more offspring, and the largest species tending to carry just a single fawn to term.
When a female deer gives birth, she first finds a secluded area. She then proceeds to labor by alternating between standing and laying down.
The birth itself will usually be done in a standing position so that gravity can help to carry the fawn out. The fawn should be born in a head-first position, as if diving to the ground.
Where Do Deer Go to Give Birth?
As mentioned, female deer will separate from their herd about 1-3 days prior to giving birth. The big question is where do they go?
Unlike other animals, deer cannot lay eggs and hide their offspring tucked away until they hatch. They have to be strategic about where they give birth so that predators will not strike their offspring during their most vulnerable days.
Another common precaution that deer take to avoid being found by predators is to lick their fawn dry and eat the afterbirth so that the smell will be eliminated.
Does almost universally find secluded areas away from their herd to deliver their fawns.
Generally, the ideal spot for a deer to give birth would be in a meadow. Particularly one with tall grasses that will hide the deer while in labor, and hide the offspring once the fawn has been born.
Fawns are born with their eyes open and with fur already developed. They will also be able to walk within the first 24 hours of their birth. Afterwards, the mother deer will leave the fawn concealed and the doe to go and find food.
It is very important for does to find hidden locations to give birth because the mother will spend a good amount of time away from her offspring to find food.
Not only are fawns born with natural camouflage, but fawns are unscented, which makes it almost impossible for predators to detect. Many domestic dogs running in fields will step on a fawn before they discover it through scent.
A poor location with inadequate cover would be the only factor that could expose a young fawn to a predator.