Our deer biologists receive a lot of photos of deer. Last month they received one of a doe with an ear tag in it and found the doe had an interesting story. The deer team wrote this article to describe their discovery:
Deer Tag #151
A gentleman gave us a ring to tell us about a picture his trail camera had captured of a doe with an ear tag. The photo was clear enough to make out a number – 151. It certainly looked like one of our ear tags – same size and shape. Over the years, we have captured and tagged thousands of deer. We have also trapped deer in the same study areas for multiple projects over multiple years. But try as we might, we could only make out those three numbers on the ear tag from the picture.
Searching for Clues
We searched the database. There were 6 deer that had an ear tag that ended in 151 going back to 2003. Only 2 of them were female. We were getting close but something wasn’t quite right. The ear tags we’ve been using are silver. And, the ear tag in the photo was clearly not silver. We did use brown colored ear tags in one study, our first large scale study that kicked off the research program we have today. That study occurred in 2001. Could this really be a deer from that study?
Dusting off the 13 year old database, we found her. Back then she was a cute, cuddly 8.6 lbs fawn in the Quehanna Wild Area. Caught in the very same area where her picture was taken 13 and half years later! Our last contact with Ms. 151 was in February 2002 when her telemetry collar fell off as it was designed to do.
A Long Life
What does she look like 13.5 years later? From the photo, she looks great! Given what we know about fawn and doe survival rates in Pennsylvania, only 3% would reach the age of 13. She probably gave birth to more than 20 fawns. She has outsmarted every coyote, bobcat, bear, and hunter in the area. She was tougher than the last 13 winters and has welcomed every spring that follows.
So the next time you see a doe in the woods, take a minute to think about the life she may have lived. It might be the daughter or granddaughter or great great-granddaughter of Ms. 151. For sure, it won’t be her. She’s too smart to be seen by anybody.