I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, there are two species of deer in CO, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. According to CPW:

There are two species of deer in Colorado. Mule deer "mulies" have rope-like tails, evenly forked antlers and extravagant ears. White-tails have smaller ears, antlers with a single main beam bearing smaller tines, and, of course, broad white tails. Mule deer bound with stiff-legged gait, the tail held down; white-tails move with a graceful lope, the flag-like tail held erect.

Given this, I am pretty sure that I saw three adult male mule deer, and one baby mule deer. The four were in a parking lot. There were two bucks that were close to, MAYBE appeared to be guarding, the baby, then a third buck came from out behind a wall, sadly limping, to follow the others away. I found a website that gives example antlers based on age. Judging by these antlers, one of the bucks protecting the baby was probably about 1.5 years old; the other buck protecting the fawn was probably about 2.5 years old; and the third, injured buck was probably 4.5 years old.

As for the fawn, I found this WikiHow page on determining a fawn's age. Judging from this, I would guess that the fawn was around 4 months old. Reason being that the fawn still had most of white spots, and I would guess that it weighed probably between 40 and 60 pounds.

As for mule deer behavior, according to the National Parks Service, mule deer:

live in a multi-generational family of related females and their offspring. Bucks older than yearlings often group together or remain solitary. In late summer and fall, mixed family groups form larger groups that stay together for protection throughout the winter. They break into smaller groups again by the next summer.

So, to be clear, it is not surprising that these three bucks were together. What is surprising is that there appeared to be no female in the area, yet there was a baby with the three bucks. Elsewhere, I have found it specifically stated that for white-tailed deer that bucks play no part in raising. I have nothing so direct relating to mule deer. Likewise, I find no direction mention of bucks playing any role in the rearing of offspring.

So, the question is, has this been viewed before? Is it a known phenomenon that male deer, take care of the offspring in the absence of a mother? Obviously this would not be possible if the fawn was still nursing, but according to the National Deer Association, fawns are usually done nursing by 3-4 months.

The other scenario I thought was possible was that one of the bucks was keeping the fawn around as a mate, but since the fawn has not yet reached sexual maturity, which according to the National Wildlife Federation doesn't happen until 18 months of age, I was not sure how likely this was. Any insight anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated.



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