Pa. Game Commission continues fawn study

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s exceedingly successful fawn survival study is about to enter its second year, and participating biologists are preparing to head afield in search of new research subjects.

The two-year study became almost an instant hit with the public last year when researchers began posting weekly updates about the study’s unfolding drama on the game commission’s Web site at www.pgc.state.pa.us.

“Thousands of interested individuals followed the study through the on-line journal published by biologists,” said Vern Ross, Game Commission executive director.

“In one year, this study has confirmed some of the suspicions our biologists have had about Pennsylvania deer for a long time, but didn’t have the evidence to support.

Important results.

“When this study is completed, we’ll be able to say this is what’s happening in Pennsylvania based upon Pennsylvania research, not research performed in other states. That’s long overdue.”

The study is concentrated in two areas: the Quehanna Wild Area in Elk, Cameron and Clearfield counties; and Centre County’s Penns Valley, just east of State College.

Quehanna is an over-browsed big woods area; Penns Valley, an agricultural area, has good habitat.

How it works.

In the study, radio-transmitter collars and ear tags are placed on fawns, and then monitored with telemetry gear.

Work concludes on an individual animal when the biodegradable collar falls off in roughly a year, a predator takes the animal or the fawn dies from illness or injury.

The study’s objectives are to estimate survival rates of fawns from birth through their first winter, to determine the cause of death of fawns that die, and to establish what landscape factors are important to fawn survival.

Last year’s data.

During the 2000 capture period, study members placed radio collars on 52 Penns Valley fawns and 46 in Quehanna. By mid-April of this year, 32 of the Quehanna fawns had died (23 were taken by predators).

In Penns Valley, 22 fawns had died by mid-April (four were taken by predators). Other causes of death included starvation, malnutrition, disease and struck by a vehicle.

Researchers are trying to capture more than 50 fawns in each of the two study areas for the next round of telemetry work.

Capturing will conclude when fawns become too quick and wary to be taken with large salmon landing nets or by hand. Monitoring will begin as soon as animals are collared.

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