Thursday, May 22, 2008

When Momma Ain't Happy...

A couple from Massachusetts received a rare treat as they toured the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. They heard something large moving through the forest. What they saw and heard was a female White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) thrashing and snorting with a fawn in tow. Between the visitors and the doe was the object of the doe's agitation...a fleeing bobcat (Lynx rufus).

The secretive bobcat is larger than a domestic cat, but not large enough to take down an adult deer. The fawns, however, are fair game. To avoid detection by predators, the doe will find a secluded spot away from other deer when she is ready to give birth (around mid-May). Once born, the doe will frequently groom the fawn in order to keep the fawn as scent-free as possible. The doe will feed the fawn at a spot some distance from the fawn's bedding site so that the doe's scent will not contaminate the bedding site. Additionally, the doe will consume the fawn's urine and droppings, which provide the doe with supplemental nutrition, to further remove any scent from near the fawn. The fawn's spotted pattern helps it blend into the dappled sunlight forest floor, although the fawn in the image has failed to take advantage of its coat by bedding down on the swamp's muddy floor.

If you find a fawn lying "helplessly" in the woods, mom is likely nearby, attentive, and well-aware of your presence. The fawn is not helpless and if you're not careful, you may get the same treatment as the bobcat!

Images by Mark Musselman with bobcat added photoshopically

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