Understanding survival of and factors that may predispose newborn deer (Odocoileus spp.) to mortality contribute to improved understanding of population dynamics. We captured free-ranging white-tailed deer neonates (n = 66) of radiocollared females that survived severe (Winter Severity Index [WSI] = 153) and mild (WSI = 45) winters 2000–2001 and 2001–2002. Mean dates of birth (26 May ± 1.7 [SE] days and 26 May ± 1.3 days) and estimated birth-masses of 2.8 ± 0.1 kg and 3.0 ± 0.1 kg were similar between springs 2001 (n = 31) and 2002 (n = 35), respectively. Neonate survival was similar between years; pooled mortality rates of neonates were 0.14, 0.11, and 0.20 at 0–1 weeks, 2–4 weeks, and 5–12 weeks of age, respectively, and overall survival rate for neonates to 12 weeks of age was 0.47. Predation accounted for 86% of mortality; the remaining 14% of deaths were attributed to unknown causes. Black bears (Ursus americanus) were responsible for 57% and 38% of predation of neonates in springs 2001 and 2002, respectively, whereas bobcats (Felis rufus) accounted for 50% in 2002. Wolves (Canis lupus) accounted for only 5% of predator-related deaths. Low birth-mass, smaller body size, and elevated concentrations of serum urea nitrogen (26.1 ± 2.6 mg/dL vs 19.3 ± 0.8 mg/dL) and tumor necrosis factor-α (82.6 ± 78.6 pg/mL vs. 2.3 ± 0.5 pg/mL) were associated with neonates that died within 1 week of birth. Even though we did not detect a direct relation between winter severity and birth or blood characteristics of neonates, evidence suggests that birth-mass and key serum indices of neonate nutrition were associated with their early mortality. Thus, managers can make more informed predictions regarding survival and cause-specific mortality of fawns and adjust management strategies to better control deer population goals.
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Vol. 73 • No. 2