Auburn DeerLab, EcoDogs to Study Fawn Scent

Do newborn deer fawns have a scent?

Long-held belief is they do not or if so, it’s minimal, giving them some protection until they’re at least a little bit older and can fend for themselves. But do we know for sure? Nope.

That’s why Drs. Todd Steury, Craig Angle and Steve Ditchkoff along with Terry Fischer at Auburn University are planning a research project about fawns, scents and predation. First, they need enough money to get the project going.

Steury, Angle and Fischer are involved with the EcoDogs program at Auburn, which trains bomb detection dogs to find “organisms in the wild or their sign.” EcoDogs have found Burmese pythons and a pine tree root fungus. But they couldn’t detect whitetail deer fawns last year until they were just about on top of them.

Ditchkoff heads the DeerLab, the Auburn whitetail research facility begun in 2007. The roughly 600-acre lab north of the university is a great testing ground for theories and research projects, and offers insights for land and whitetail managers.

According to the project’s fundraising site: “… it’s not that the (hidden) fawns didn’t produce a scent, but instead it seemed that the scent appeared to be super concentrated in a very small area. These initial results led us to hypothesize that deer fawns are choosing locations that trap in their scent to minimize risk of predation. This fall we want to test this hypothesis by comparing the ability of scent detection dogs to find targets in locations where deer fawns have hid to that of random locations in the environment.”

Less than 20 days remain for the project to be funded. Research like this project can help land and wildlife managers learn whether creating specific habitat, leaving certain areas alone or other factors may help fawn recruitment and possibly reduce predation.

Check out the site by going here and consider making a donation to help get the project off the ground this autumn. Every little bit helps. We’ll keep you posted on what’s going on.

What do you think? Do fawns have a scent that isn’t so strong that predators can’t easily find them when hidden? What have you seen in the wild? Let us know!