Fauna Series No. 4
Population and Mortality
Other Larger Mammals
Fauna of the National Parks No. 4
Ecology of the Coyote in the Yellowstone
ANTELOPE IN RELATION TO COYOTES
The does travel together up to fawning time. As each
doe feels the time approach she goes off by herself, but not necessarily
far from the others, for often lone antelope may be seen only one or two
hundred yards apart. A few days after birth of the fawns, the does begin
to bunch up and soon the bands are together again. The fawns romp and
rest together and when the band is traveling they are usually bunched.
In June I have seen as many as seven fawns following one doe. On July 2,
1937, eight fawns were frolicking together two or three hundred yards
away from the adults, and some of them lay down by themselves at that
distance. When the fawns saw me they galloped away until they were about
one-third of a mile from the adults. Here some of them lay down. At this
time the young seem to be as fleet as the adults. They spend much time
racing over the slopes and continue this frolicsome activity through
cold weather. In late winter I have seen them lay back their ears and
chase each other at great speed.
A new-born antelope fawn found June 7, 1938, measured
between 16 and 17 inches in height at the shoulder; an accurate
measurement was not secured because of difficulty in getting it to stand
on its feet quietly. It could travel but did so with some unsteadiness.
A day or two after birth the fawns travel quite well and soon move about
freely with their mothers and the band. In early June fawns were
frequently seen following their mothers.
The fawn has a strong instinct for hiding and lies
motionless and limp when handled. It lacks spots and has a greyish-brown
coat which makes it hard to find. On June 3 a doe, and a fawn which had
been nursing, became frightened and galloped away. When the fawn came to
a clump of sagebrush and cinquefoil it dropped beside it as though shot
and lay still. It seemed to know the hiding possibilities offered by the
vegetation. When it was lifted to its feet it galloped away to join its
mother and disappear over a ridge. It is my impression that antelope
young get up and run away from disturbances at an earlier age than do
the elk calves.
Figure 33 Among the antelope several
cripples were noted, some of which nevertheless traveled far.
buck in the illustration had a stiff, bent foreleg. He lived the year
round near Gardiner.
May 22, 1938.
The protection the fawns receive from their mothers
before they begin to travel to any extent with the bands is of
importance in connection with the vulnerability of the fawns to
predators. On June 4, 1938, I watched three does, each with two fawns,
from 9:30 a. m. until 8 p. m. The does were on two rather gentle slopes
of some low buttes east of Trumpeter Lake; one doe was alone on one
slope and two does were together on the other. The following
observations were made of the lone doe:
|9:30 a. m. . .
Two fawns were nursing. When finished they lay down
a few yards away. There were two other does and a yearling nearby. The
mother of the fawns followed one of the does to chase it away. After
feeding in the vicinity of the fawns, the mother and the two does and
yearling lay down near the top of the ridge about 150 yards from the
|1:10 p. m. . .
The mother approached the two fawns which had been
lying about 30 yards apart, and they both nursed at once for about a
|1:20 p. m. . .
The two fawns lay down 25 yards from where they had
nursed and the mother fed slowly up the slope.
|1:45 p. m. . .
The mother went over the ridge out of sight of the
|2:10 p. m. . .
She came in sight, and lay down near the top of the
ridge from where she could see the fawns 150 yards below.
|4:10 p. m. . .
She began to feed, always in sight of her fawns.
|4:30 p. m. . .
The two fawns, lying 5 yards apart, rose, and the
mother, who was 35 yards away, approached them. The fawns nursed
together, one for 1 minute, the other for 1-1/2 minutes. A few minutes
later they both nursed again briefly. The mother spent some time licking
them between the hind legs.
|4:40 p. m. . .
The fawns lay down; the mother moved up the
|5:20 p. m. . .
The mother stood on top of the ridge peering down
the other side.
|5:25 p. m. . .
She lay down on top of the ridge 150 yards above the
fawns and in view of them.
|6:00 p. m. . .
She commenced to feed. Two heavy does and a yearling
wandered near the fawns.
|6:10 p. m. . .
A third doe wandered near where the fawns lay.
|6:30 p. m. . .
The mother went over the ridge out of view.
|6:45 p. m. . .
She reappeared on the horizon and looked toward her
fawns at intervals while feeding.
|7:10 p. m. . .
She moved out of sight of the fawns, but returned in
a few minutes. For the next 50 minutes she fed back and forth across the
slope in the general direction of her fawns.
|8:00 p. m. . .
She approached the fawns and both nursed together.
Dusk prevented further observations.
During the period of 1-1/2 hours that I watched, the
mother was out of sight of the fawns for about 40 minutes. The
inactivity of the fawns indicated that they were very young.
Movement of does numbers 2 and 3:
|9:30 a. m. . .
The two does, along with a third doe which appeared
heavy, were feeding on a ridge.
|11:00 a. m. . .
Four grazing elk cows appeared on the slope. They,
as well as the three antelope, peered up the slope at two elk calves,
one of which had stood up. One of the antelope approached within about
20 yards of the calves, and one of the elk to within about 40 yards of
them. The calf lay down and the antelope and elk began to feed. Three
jackrabbits playing around two large boulders attracted the attention of
the elk and antelope. The three antelope approached within 50 yards of
the hares and the elk approached almost as near. The antelope
disappeared over the ridge, along the crest of which they had been
feeding. The elk grazed down the slope.
|11:15 a. m. . .
An antelope fawn cried out and leaped away from the
feet of one of the cow elk; the cow was startled and jumped to one side.
I could not determine whether the fawn had been trampled. The fawn ran
out of sight 200 yards away near the base of and around the ridge over
which the three does had disappeared, but probably too low to be seen by
|11:45 a. m. . .
The elk went out of sight.
|12 noon . .
The three does reappeared on the ridge at the place
where they had gone out of sight. One of them was followed by two fawns
and another by a singleton. All three fawns nursed. One of the fawns,
after nursing from one doe, walked over to try the other and was gently
butted away. After the three fawns had frolicked together about 4
minutes they lay down. One, rising to follow its mother, lay down when
she turned abruptly and faced it. This fawn changed its resting place
two or three times, moving only a few yards each time.
|12:20 p. m. . .
The doe with the single young came down the slope to
the spot where the elk had startled a fawn. The doe smelled of the place
and followed in the direction the fawn had taken for about 30 yards; it
then turned down the hill and walked aimlessly here and there for about
25 minutes, bleating at intervals the whole time. She seemed to be
searching for the fawn that had run away.
|12:45 p. m. . .
After returning again to the spot where the fawn had
lain the doe walked up to her other offspring and lay down about 50
yards away from it. During this time the other two does had been resting
a short distance above the three fawns.
|2:10 p. m. . .
All three does were feeding. An elk calf stood up
and attracted the notice of one of the does 75 yards below.
|3:15 p. m. . .
Two of the does were resting 50 yards above the
fawns, and the other was feeding. Then for 10 minutes the doe that had
last fed searched for the lost fawn, going twice to where it had
|3:30 p. m. . .
The two does fed their fawns, each fawn nursing
about 1 minute. Before feeding started one fawn came 10 yards to meet a
doe, which shied away after smelling noses with it and walked up to one
of her own offspring. After she had fed this fawn, she walked toward the
other one, which got up when she was 30 yards away and came to meet her.
These two fawns scampered and played and then ran down the slope
together. The fawn that had smelled noses with the strange doe was
approached by its own mother and nursed. This doe then searched for the
lost one, returning again and again to where it had lain.
|3:35 p. m. . .
The lone fawn lay down,
|3:50 p. m. . .
The twin fawns lay down 35 yards from their mother.
One of these in a few minutes got up to meet the other doe, then trotted
30 yards down the hill where it lay beside a rock. The doe smelled of
this fawn, then returned to search for her lost one, crying at
intervals. The bleat could be heard plainly 100 yards away. The mother
of the two fawns fed about 140 yards away from them but remained in
|4:00 p. m. . .
The mother in search of her fawn went over the ridge
in the direction in which it had disappeared.
|4:10 p. m. . .
The mother of the twins lay down 130 yards from
|4:40 p. m. . .
The mother returned to the slope from over the ridge
and examined the spot where the lost fawn had lain.
|4:45 p. m. . .
One of the twins rose and followed the mother of the
lone fawn as it wandered past; it then ran off 30 yards and lay down.
This time the doe did not smell of it.
|4:50 p. m. . .
The mother of the lost fawn, after feeding in the
flat, lay down.
|5:30 p. m. . .
The mother of the twins began to feed.
|5:40 p. m. . .
The mother of the lost fawn walked below the spot
where it had been lying, and then looked over the ridge where it had
|7:00 p. m. . .
Both mothers were resting within 100 yards of their
|7:10 p. m. . .
The doe again examined the spot where the lost fawn
had been lying.
One of the fawns was seen looking around as it
|7:30 p. m. . .
The two mothers were out of sight of the resting
fawns for a few minutes a heavy doe and a yearling had wandered
|7:35 p. m. . .
The two mothers and another doe romped a few
minutes; one of the does ran about 150 yards in a big circle.
|7:45 p. m. . .
The mother of the lost fawn returned to sight after
searching over the ridge for a few minutes. The other mother fed out of
sight over the ridge.
|7:55 p. m. .
. A yearling cautiously approached within 6 feet of
one of the fawns and then shied off. A pregnant doe did likewise but
actually smelled of the fawn before wheeling away. The mother of twins
came in sight of them again, after being out of their sight 10
|8:00 p. m. . .
The mother of the lost one was bleating while she
searched for her fawn. (There is some possibility that the "lost fawn"
was the one which followed the mother over the ridge at noon but the
behavior of the mother would indicate that the fawn was actually
From noon to 8 p. m. the doe searching for her fawn
had been out of sight of her remaining one about 45 minutes. The other
mother was out of sight of her fawns only about 10 minutes. It therefore
appears that the mothers remain close enough to their offspring to watch
for intruders most of the time when the fawns are young.
On June 4 near Tower Falls I saw a doe looking at a
spot 10 or 15 yards from her and upon investigation found a fawn. The
doe ran off a hundred yards. When I picked up the little one it cried
and brought the mother, on a dead run, to within 10 yards of me. I put
the fawn down and it ran off with its mother on unsteady legs. The
mother was in this case quite fearless in approaching me when it felt
its young endangered.
During the summer of 1937 fawn remains were found in
32 coyote droppings. This of course gives but little information on the
number of antelope fawns which may be consumed by coyotes. Whether or
not there is too heavy a drain on the fawns from all sources can only be
determined by ascertaining the fawn survival. The counts as later
reported showed a good survival, sufficient no doubt to increase the
size of the herd. The proportion of the fawns that are eaten as carrion
or are killed by coyotes is not known; but it is certain that some of
the fawns represent carrion. Under "elk" I have discussed the general
mortality of new-born ungulates. Among antelope there is also no doubt
that a rather definite proportion of fawns die at birth or shortly
thereafter. Ranger Ben Arnold reported finding on June 19, 1931 a dead
doe antelope and two dead fawns, one born and the other still unborn,
and attributed death to travail during fawning. When the mother has two
fawns, it may occasionally happen that one is lost. The incident cited
of a fawn antelope scared away from its bed by an elk on June 4
illustrates how a fawn might be lost. Whether this one was found by its
mother I did not learn but it is possible that it was lost to later