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Fawn collar project to monitor deer in southern Minnesota

DNR crews will collect data from the GPS-tracked collars to study deer movement, habitat and mortality, among other things.

MADELIA, Minn. — A new class of fawns will have eyes squarely on them as the tiny critters grow and make their way into the natural world.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife crews spent the spring putting GPS collars on nearly 80 fawns in southern Minnesota. A contracted drone pilot locates the fawns, usually one to five days old, and helps a 3 or 4-person research team find them. The team gently captures the fawn and quickly measures its length, weight and overall health while slipping on a flexible GPS collar that expands as the deer grows. The entire process takes about four minutes, to minimize the stress on the young animal. 

Once the fawns are back in the wild, the collars provide data that helps wildlife scientists track deer movement, choice of habitat and causes of mortality, among other things. 

“This is the first study of fawns in southern Minnesota in more than 20 years,” said DNR farmland wildlife research scientist Eric Michel. “It’s important because a lot has changed during that time, including predator populations and land use.”

The GPS collars are designed to break away after approximately 18 months, then notify those conducting the study of a location. While in use, the collars notify the research team if a deer is not moving for an extended period of time, which usually indicates it is no longer living. Researchers can then locate the animal and determine the animal's cause of death.  

“The GPS collar can tell us more about fawn survival rates, what the primary causes of deer mortality are, and what types of habitats they prefer,” Michel explained. “This study has great potential to inform wildlife managers about our wild deer populations.”

This is the second year of a three-year study that will collar an average of 80 fawns each spring. 

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