April 27, 2007

Deer fawning season approaches at SIUC

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Officials at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are reminding students, faculty and staff that deer fawning season will begin in a few weeks and pedestrians on the University campus should be alert and use caution if they sight deer nearby.

Interim Chancellor John M. Dunn said the administration wants to alert the campus community and SIUC visitors about the upcoming birthing period, which can correspond with aggressive behavior by doe protecting their newborn fawns.

"We certainly want to make sure that everyone is aware this time of year is approaching and to ask them to be vigilant as they make their way around campus," Dunn said.

Female deer are intensely protective of newborn fawns and can act aggressively toward humans if they perceive a threat, said Clay K. Nielsen, an assistant scientist with the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory at SIUC. The thickly wooded SIUC campus provides cover for deer, which may give birth to fawns near University buildings and walking paths.

"A doe and her fawn could be pretty much anywhere there is cover: woods, high grass or poison ivy," Nielsen said. "Any people near those kinds of areas — and it's hard to avoid those completely – should be careful. If you see a deer, turn around and walk the other way."

Fawning season runs from about May 15 through the end of June, though early and late births are possible, Nielsen said.

Deer have acted aggressively toward people on the SIUC campus several times during previous fawning seasons. Nielsen said mother deer will closely guard a newborn during the first 10 days of its life, when the youngster remains mostly still.

"Their strategy to avoid predation is to hide," Nielsen said. "Deer are not territorial, like a wolf is for instance. But during that 10-day period they do become somewhat protective of the area where their fawn is hiding. After 10 days, a fawn can run away from you."

In an effort to raise public awareness, the University is sending pamphlets to campus departments that contain information on avoiding deer encounters.