Before "Rescuing That White-tailed Fawn...Think Twice!
ANNAPOLIS, MD — All of us enjoy observing young wild animals as they appear during Nature’s ritual of renewal each spring and summer. A white-tailed deer fawn provides one of most appealing sights in Nature. Many fawns are observed following their always-wary mother or bounding around in a sunny meadow. If a fawn is found in late spring or early summer, it may be curled up in the woods or in a field alone, with no vigilant mother in sight. Is it orphaned? With almost certainty, the answer is no.
Wildlife raise their young using methods that may seem strange or even neglectful to humans. The doe leads her newborn young to secluded habitat and nurses them. The fawn beds down soon after feeding. If the doe has twins, she separates them up by as much as 200 feet. The doe now leaves her young to feed and rest after the recent birthing. After a few hours, the doe returns to the fawn, feeds it and moves it to a new hiding spot. This pattern will continue for about three weeks. By this time the fawns are strong enough to keep up with their mother and able to out race any potential danger.
Evolutionary adaptations have provided deer with the ability to survive and thrive in rapidly changing landscapes. Fawns have almost no odor, so predators struggle to locate them. The spotted coat creates a camouflage effect for fawns lying on the ground surrounded by low vegetation. Fawns instinctively freeze which enhances this protective coloration. As fawns grow and mature, they will initially freeze, but they jump up and bound away.
Speed is the primary protection for an adult white-tailed deer. An adult deer can run about 25 miles per hour with short bursts up to 40 miles per hour. However young fawns are not capable of this escape technique and must depend on their ability to hide.
What should a person do when they encounter a young fawn hiding on the ground? As little as possible. Never try to catch it. If the fawn is lying down, enjoy the moment and then quietly walk away. Do not describe the location to others. If the fawn attempts to follow you, gently push on its shoulders until it lies down, and then slowly walk away. The doe would do the same thing when she wants the fawn to stay put.
Removing deer or other native wild animals from the wild, raising them and keeping them in captivity without the approval of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife & Heritage Service is against the law. The unnatural conditions of life in captivity can lead to malnutrition, injury and stress at the hands of a well-meaning captor. Wild animals that become accustomed to humans can pose a threat to themselves and to people. Remember, if you observe a fawn, enjoy the moment, but do not pick it up.
For questions regarding fawns or other young wild animals, contact the Wildlife Services Information Line, toll free, at (877) 463-6497, or DNR’s Wildlife & Heritage Service at the following offices: Cumberland at (301)777-2136; Bel Air at (410) 836-4557; Gaithersburg at (301) 258-7308; Annapolis at (410) 260-8540; or Salisbury at (410) 543-6595.
Posted June 1, 2004