Ever since trail cameras became so popular a few years ago, readers have regularly sent along their own images. We’ve seen moose, mystery beasts and plenty of deer over the years.
Over the weekend I received a message — and photos — from Leonard Crowe of Carmel. He’s got a camera set up on a 26-acre parcel he owns in Troy, and the camera captured images of a seemingly hefty fawn trying to nurse on its mother.
“I find it very interesting that the fawn is still nursing this late in the season,” Crowe said of the image, which was taken on Nov. 3 “The fawn is all most as big as the mother so it does not seem to be late birth.”
I sent the photos to Kyle Ravana, deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and asked for his help.
In particular, I asked Ravana if this kind of behavior is normal … and if it’s not, why is it taking place?
“Nursing begins when the fawn is able to stand and begin to feed, and will continue until the doe begins weaning the fawn, via decreased milk production, around 2 to 2.5 months later,” Ravana wrote. “For all intents and purposes, most fawns are functionally weaned and are ruminating after this point in time.”
So, it would seem that a fawn this size would be consuming a traditional diet, and wouldn’t still be nursing.
But Ravana said that’s not always the case.
“That said, occasional nursing may occur during a fawn’s first autumn, but is most likely more of a social interaction between the fawn and doe,” Ravana wrote. “In general, most does are not receptive to nursing at this point in time. The doe in the pictures does not appear to be receptive to it , looks mildly agitated, and appears to move off as the fawn attempts to nurse.
“Like [the reader states], I also would not attribute this to a late birth, but rather just an enduring expression of a behavioral trait innate to neonatal fawns,” Ravana wrote.