Those of us who live in areas with a lot of deer are used to seeing them around. But spotting a pregnant deer can be tricky. To determine whether a doe is pregnant, some background knowledge on the breeding season is helpful.
What You'll Learn Today
When Do Deer Get Pregnant?
Deer reproductive cycles mostly depend on the climate. Natural selection has refined the breeding process to ensure that fawns are born in optimal conditions for survival.
In northern areas of the U.S., for example, the breeding season runs from October to January. In the southern states, deer wait until January or February to mate. Most female deer begin to breed when they are at least 1 ½ years old.
White-tailed does are polyestrous. This means that they usually go into heat multiple times during the breeding season. They are also known as short-day breeders, meaning that they begin to breed in the fall when the days are shorter.
The bulk of does go into heat beginning in November, and each heat period lasts for 24 hours. If a doe doesn’t conceive during that time frame, their cycle begins again and they go into heat around 28 days later.
How Long Do Deer Stay Pregnant?
The length of pregnancy depends on the species of deer, but most deer pregnancies last from 180-200 days. White-tailed deer, the most common deer in the U.S., are pregnant for right around 200 days.
Nature times the breeding time and gestation period perfectly to protect vulnerable fawns and support new moms. Since does mostly leave their fawns alone for the first couple of weeks of life, they need good spots to conceal their young.
When the foliage returns in the spring, there’s enough green coverage for fawns to lie undetected until their moms return. The white spots on fawns are also great for camouflage, as they resemble dappled forest sunlight.
Another reason for spring births is the nutrients that are available to the doe at that time of year. A new mom needs lots of extra nutritious plants and vegetation so that she can adequately nurse her baby and nurture her body.
Can You Tell if a Doe is Pregnant?
It can be difficult to tell when a deer is pregnant until she’s farther along. Usually, they won’t start showing until they are well into the third trimester of pregnancy.
You can assume a doe is pregnant when:
- You notice a large bulge in her lower abdomen.
- The doe is cleaning her fur frequently.
- She’s looking around a lot and tends to be on constant high alert.
- There are other pregnant females around. They often travel together while pregnant.
- It’s early spring. It’s a safe bet that most does are pregnant during this time.
Where Do Deer Go to Give Birth?
When it’s finally time to give birth, a doe will find a quiet place with plenty of tall grass and plants to conceal her. This protects her and her babies from predators and gives them time to rest. A doe usually gives birth to two fawns per breeding season.
Here’s what the birth process usually looks like:
1. The doe gets situated
She finds the perfect spot to give birth and lies on her side.
2. She gets into the birthing position
Once the fawn is partially out, the doe stands up. This way, gravity helps the baby slide out more easily.
3. The doe cares for the baby/babies
She immediately gives them their first feeding and cleans her fawns, which erases any traces of the mother’s scent. Being nearly scentless helps protect them from predators when mom leaves them.
4. The female deer moves the fawns
Once the fawns can stand up and everyone has gotten some rest, the doe moves them each to a separate, safe location.
5. The doe leaves to find food
Fawns can’t keep up with their mother during the first week or two after birth, so they stay behind while mom forages. She will return to nurse them a few times per day as long as the coast is clear.
Deer are very secretive creatures and will only give birth where they feel secure. Every so often, humans get lucky enough to witness this amazing event. Check out this video below to watch what one Youtuber witnessed when a doe chose her property to give birth.
10 thoughts on “How Can You Tell If A Deer Is Pregnant?”
ahhhh this was amazing to watch. How special these creatures are! Thank you to people that care…..let them survive…..knowledgeable people who help when needed……try to never hurt them; they do have emotional and physical pain!!!! Animals lived in most of our areas first….we invaded.
All animals are truly special and I, like most conservationists believe in Gods creations as well as dominion to cultivate and harvest (Genesis 9:3, Deuteronomy 14, Isaiah 66, etc) anyone who murders an animal and does not use it as God designed is truly being abusive to nature but they are a good source for many of us and no one is more concerned with ethical food sources than your local hunters.
Why should humans have “dominion to cultivate and harvest?” Very top-down plantation model where others are seen as resources. There necessarily is always someone or something on the bottom to be of use to others. Precisely what is wrong in this world is this belief system that posits humans at the top of the pyramid.
When other species start making music, art, technology, philosophy, etc, then they can be at the top of the food chain. Until then, we preside.
If you knew anything about deer, you would know that over population will lead to wasting diseases and other things detrimental to their well bring. Shortage of food is another example.
To keep deer healthy and able to survive, the herd must be thinned. Remember; their natural predators (that also kill them for food) are not as numerous as they used to be. To control the number of deer in a certain state, the conservation department issues hunting licenses that limit the number of deer that can be harvested. Depending on conservation models; they even get down to the point where the licenses are limited. A hunter may get a license to only hunt a buck. Sometimes only a doe. Other than poachers (who hunters hate) killing them without limit; it is a very exacting process. The fines for poaching are sizeable.
There are many sources with the conservation department that you can learn more. Finally, if you feel that way about deer, what about turkeys, cows, fish, etc. that man uses for food? Is it because you find them pretty? That is emotional thinking, rather than logic. By the way; I find them beautiful too, and I don’t hunt, although I have many deer on my property. I just realize why it is necessary.
well “being”, sorry
Since the rut for deer is November (thereabouts) and gestation is 200 days, the birth should be around Memorial Day. I had a doe in my backyard this morning showing all the signs mentioned in the article: big belly with obvious signs of movement, lying on her side, licking her fur, tail elevated when standing up. The article says the likely time is “early Spring” which doesn’t compute since Spring will be over in 3 weeks. This doe was solo, no company of other females.
Your site is amazing! There is so much about deer, I had no idea about. There is currently a deer (doe, I believe) holding up in my neighbor’s backyard. She’s been there for at least 6 days. She doesn’t move around much, and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t left the yard (I check on her, from a distance, multiple times a day). She’s usually laying down, in one of two spots. I have seen her grazing every now and then, but not often, and I’m not sure there is much of a water source near her. She doesn’t appear to be physically injured in any way, and she’s very alert. It’s Winter here (rural Illinois), but our Winter hasn’t been as cold as normal. It hasn’t even been below 24 degrees since I discovered the deer. It has only snowed once since then, and we got was less than an inch of snow…
Why could she be staying there? It is a hidden spot, that’s not easy to get to for larger animals. She had to jump the fence to get back there, and when startled prepares to jump to escape. I haven’t seen her jump the fence, but I think it’s because she hasn’t had a reason to. No one knows she’s there, but my family and I. The home owner doesn’t even know, to my knowledge. She is the only deer back there, and we have a large population of deer around.
Should I call someone, or is this normal behavior?
Deer have gotten along fine for eons; it is best to just leave them alone. If you call the conservation department in your state, they will tell you the same thing.
If you think one deer hanging out in your backyard if odd, think of this: You are kind enough and and savvy enough to not run for the shotgun. Thank you.