In North America, the most common large animal is the white-tail deer. These docile and territorial animals have noticeable white fur on their tails. White-tail deer are so prevalent that many states have dedicated hunting seasons for them. Each state has various rules about the age of deer, so you may ask yourself, “when do deer lose their spots?”
Rules about hunting and wildlife management often protect the youngest members of the herd. Fortunately, the youngest white-tail deer have spots and other age-determining characteristics.
How Long Do Deer Stay With Their Mother?
After a doe gives birth, usually in the spring, she nurses her fawns for two or three months. After weaning, they stay with their mothers for up to two years. Generally, a buck stays for one year, while the young doe stays for two.
Why Does a Baby Deer Have Spots?
Because fawns are defenseless in their first few weeks of life, their best defense is blending in with nature. Baby white-tailed deer have white spots to help them hide in plain sight. They lay motionless in shrubs or bushes, and if a predator approaches their heart rate drops and breathing slows to make them nearly undetectable The spots resemble light and shadow in the forest, acting as camouflage.
When baby deer are born, their mother licks them clean to erase any odors that may give away their presence. In their first few weeks, fawns do not have a scent, as their scent glands aren’t developed at birth.
The mother deer only comes back to the fawn when feeding or relocating it, because the doe’s presence could attract predators to the site of a fawn. By staying away from the fawn for long periods of time, the doe acts as a distraction to the fawn’s location. Though you may not see the doe, she is always in the general area to act as a protector in the event of danger.
Before you try to approach a young fawn, you’ll need to read up on whether or not deer attack humans.
How Old Is a Fawn With Spots?
At birth, baby deer have a reddish-brown coat color with white spots on their back. The mottled spots vary in size and location to resemble light passing through trees in the forest. Newborn fawns generally have a birth weight of about six to eight pounds at birth, with bucks weighing a little more than does. They can move unsteadily soon after they are born, but when do baby deer lose their spots? All fawns lose their spots after they are three or four months old.
Mother deer often hide their youngest baby deer in vegetation while they forage for food to protect them from natural predators. If you see newborn fawns hiding in the wild, it’s best to leave them alone, or you may give away their location to predators. Young fawns hidden in vegetation are often under twelve weeks of age.
If they are hiding or have the presence of spots, they are still nursing and don’t forage with their mother deer. Before weaning, newborn fawns nurse about four times per day, which is one of the only events where the doe will approach the fawn to avoid attracting predators.
How Do You Tell If a Fawn Is a Buck or Doe?
Newborn deer all have mottled spots on their backs, but each young yearling buck also has spots where its antlers grow. Female deer stay with their mothers for up to two years, while buck fawns leave after a year.
How Can You Tell a Fawn’s Age?
After fawns lose their spots between three and four months of age, they have other signs that show their age. For example, six-month-old fawns tend to be playful and social. White-tail fawns wander farther from their mothers. By late summer, their spots have disappeared, and their snouts look shorter than those on adults. They weigh about 60 or 70 pounds.
As a buck fawn ages, its antler spots begin to sprout as pedicles, and their heads look flatter than young doe heads. Bucks begin their beautiful antler growth when they are ten months old. They have thin legs until they become adult bucks, which will be at five and six years of age. Throughout adulthood, their antlers shed and regrow several times during rutting seasons.
Though female fawns do not reach full maturity until three years of age, they can still breed earlier. Female fawns can become pregnant at just six months old, and give birth around 12 months old. You can spot doe fawns because they do not have antler spots or display antler growth, and they stay with their mothers for up to two years.
How Do You Tell If a Fawn Is Abandoned?
If you are out on a hike in the woods and you see a single fawn resting in the leaves, you should first assume it has not been abandoned. Does nurse about four times per day, while they spend the rest of the time foraging away from their babies.
If you are around the deer fawn, your human scent can attract a predator, putting the yearling in danger, especially if the fawn still has hiding spots. To determine if the doe abandoned the fawn, observe the area from a distance to see if the doe returns for feeding.
You can also see if the fawn is dehydrated or ill by pinching its skin between the shoulder blades, though it’s best to not touch the fawn unless you absolutely have to. A healthy fawn’s skin will quickly return to its place. Fawns have a body temperature of 102° Fahrenheit (about 39 celsius), so a healthy fawn will feel like it has a subtle temperature if you touch it.
While flies tend to bother most living creatures, an ill fawn will not try to shake flies off of its body. A fawn with flies in its eyes, nose, and mouth needs medical attention.
Before attempting to rescue a fawn, understand that they know how to stay hidden, even as newborns. They can make themselves seem especially small by pressing their heads toward the ground and tucking their legs under their bodies.
Many people think fawns have broken legs when they are just trying to hide. If the fawn is hurt, it might extend its legs rather than tuck them.
Before attempting to rescue a fawn, leave it for at least ten hours for nursing times, as their mothers typically return within that time. Many states prohibit residents from raising wild animals unless they have a license. Your local wildlife agency can explain the details about getting a license to raise various wildlife species.
If the doe did abandon her fawn, you should contact the local wildlife managers before attempting to rescue the fawn yourself. A wildlife agency has the means to provide the nutritional requirement and care for a young fawn.
Fawns lose their spots between three to four months of age. The spots serve to camouflage the young deer while they are in the forest with their mothers. Young bucks have spots where their antlers will grow, while a young doe does not have spots on their heads.