White-tailed deer fawns often bypass the nearest “escape cover” to seek better habitats for shaking off predators, new research has found.
The study in the journal Animal Behaviour, followed white-tailed deer fawns on the Great Plains of the U.S.
The fawns’ behaviour was a surprise to the research team, they said.
“We expected them to look for cover as soon as possible and try to take that cover… (but) they actually went to a better cover rather than the first available,” says Jonathan Jenks, distinguished professor of wildlife and fisheries sciences at South Dakota State University.
Fawns selecting grassland and wetland habitats to conceal themselves in were found to be more likely to evade predators such as coyotes, even if it meant them running greater distances to reach these terrains, the study said.
But those choosing forest sand wheat fields were more likely to be captured.
Contrary to the researchers’ prediction that fawns would flee to the nearest available cover, only about 25% of the 128 fawns observed selected the nearest escape habitat – and 79% of those that did were captured by predators.