Whitetail mothers desire a related species to protect their young fawns.
While whitetail mothers tend to be timid around predators mule deer mothers can be more aggressive.
The mule deer does act almost like a free baby sitting service. The interesting part of the relationship is that the two species are very similar. Their home ranges overlap across North America. Similarly, both raise their young in tall grasses for concealment.
Susan Lingle, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Winnipeg studied deer on cattle ranches in the 1990's. As part of her observations she noticed that when whitetail mothers went off to graze they would frequently deposit their young near the mule deer mothers.
As shown above, Lingle would oftentimes witness coyotes try to steal fawns only to be scared away by aggressive mule deer does.
Coincidentally, fawn survival rates increased during years when mule deer were more abundant. This, however, may not have been a coincident.
As part of ongoing research Lingle reevaluated her research and found that mule deer would graze closer to their fawns. Alternatively, whitetail mothers would graze to farther distances.
Interestingly enough, whitetails would usually join mule deer herds but not the other way around.
Another interesting observation Lingle discovered that whitetail does chased off other whitetails but not mule deer.
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