Friday, March 4, 2016

Unscented fawns

Deer and elk, cervids, are graced with a natural survival trait that helps protect their offspring. Newborn deer fawns and elk calves have very little smell, so when the mother moves away from the herd to give birth, it's harder for predators to find the virtually odorless babies. But even with this protection, bears and other predators know when calving is going on and the smell of blood from the birthing process allows them to home in on the newborns.

Immediately after the calf is born, many of the mothers eat the afterbirth, the placenta, to lessen the chances for detection by predators. Then they move the calf away from the birth site, hide it in thick vegetation, and walk away. The scentless calf lies perfectly still until the mother returns, so a hungry predator can walk very, very close to the baby and pass it by without even realizing the calf is there.
Kim DeLozier & Carolyn Jourdan, Bear in the Back Seat II: Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (2014)

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