April 30, 2008

Deer fawning season approaches on campus

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials 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.

Clay K. Nielsen, an associate scientist with the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory at SIUC, said he is hopeful the upcoming fawning season will be as uneventful as last year's, when campus authorities received no reports of aggressive deer or injuries among students and staff. Still, Nielsen urged the campus community to be alert and use caution during the next few weeks.

"The fawning season should start up in mid- to late May and go through the month of June," Nielsen said. "During this time, female deer will begin having fawns, often in areas that are close to walking paths."

Nielsen said mother deer will closely guard a newborn during the first 10 days of its life, when the youngster remains mostly still.

"Everyone needs to be vigilant for deer during this time," he said. "If you see a fawn, don't approach it, don't touch it, don't pick it up. It's highly unlikely that it is abandoned. The mother is probably very close in the surrounding area watching. She may not be visible, but she is there."

The thickly wooded SIUC campus provides cover for deer, which may give birth to fawns near University buildings and walking paths. Although the fawning season runs roughly from May 15 through June 30, early and late births are possible.

Mother deer can be aggressive when they perceive a threat to their offspring, Nielsen said. In fawning seasons past, campus authorities received several reports of deer acting aggressively during fawning season. Last year, however, there were no such reports.

Nielsen said that might be from a combination of campus police killing an aggressive deer in 2006 - possibly the only deer responsible for the past run-ins with campus pedestrians - as well as a public information campaign aimed making the campus community more aware of fawning season.

Nielsen said the best way to avoid an unpleasant encounter is to be aware of your surroundings and avoid deer if possible.