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Winter fawn survival below average, calf survival average

Winter fawn survival below average, calf survival average

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BOISE — The late-winter snow took a toll on radio-collared mule deer fawns — 46% survived. It had less effect on collared elk calves, 77% of which survived.

“That record snow pack that we observed in February did not do fawns any favors,” Daryl Meints, Fish and Game’s deer and elk coordinator, said in a statement. “It will not be like the winter of 2016-17, but we will be below the long-term average. On a brighter note, it appears that elk calf survival is doing just fine, as are adult doe and cow survival.”

Idaho Fish and Game biologists have been monitoring 207 mule deer fawns and 201 elk calves that were captured in early winter and fitted with telemetry collars.

Mule deer

Radio-collared mule deer.

March and April are often when calf and fawn mortality is highest because the young animals’ fat reserves are rapidly depleting, and their bodies need time to convert to digesting fresh forage.

Elk have not been trapped and collared for as many years as mule deer, and elk calves typically survive at a higher rate than mule deer fawns. Adult deer and elk also typically survive at high rates unless it’s an extreme winter.

Of the 548 radio-collared mule deer does being monitored by Fish and Game researchers, 92% were alive through April 30, and 98% of the 643 collared cows survived. Fish and Game biologists will tally the final survival estimates in June.

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