Fawns are scent-free, and being left alone is their best defense. So if you find one in your yard, look, but don’t touch!
In May and June, Wildlife Rehabilitators receive many calls from well-meaning people who want us to save an “abandoned fawn.” It is important to know that fawns are born with a natural defense mechanism. When fawns are first born, they have no appealing scent to predators and they have an amazing ability to lay perfectly still and quiet, allowing the fawn to hide in plain sight. The mother deer does not stay with her fawn because she does not want to alert predators to her baby’s location. She comes back to her fawn throughout the day and night, but only when it appears there are no humans or other predators around. She feeds and thoroughly cleans the fawn, to erase any scent they may have.
Instinctively, the fawn knows that when mom leaves, it must lay very still and silent in the location mom left it. Since the fawn does not move and no mother is present, people often think it is abandoned. Because of this, healthy fawns are often “kidnapped.”
A doe may keep her babies in the short grass area, near your home, in your garden, etc. for the first three days, not in the woods where the predators are hunting. These first days a fawn can’t outrun a predator, so they go limp when someone picks them up. They are not dying, they are playing “possum,” so you will not be interested and put them down.
With twins, a doe will leave one baby in one place, and then 300-500 feet away, she will leave the other. She then goes off to the closest hiding area and forms a triangle so she can watch over both, unseen, until it is time to feed again. She will not let them travel with her until they are old enough to keep up with the herd, but she is never far away.
There are times when a fawn will not express normal fawn behavior. Rehabilitators will usually be concerned when we get a call about a fawn that is wandering around crying out. This is not natural behavior, as it attracts predators.
Diarrhea, flies, falling down, limping, twins together and obvious wounds are all signs of a fawn that needs help. If you suspect a fawn needs help, or just want to make sure a fawn is OK, you can contact expert Deer Rehabilitator Pat Ferguson at 592-3067. In closing, remember the fawn that is lying still in your yard or garden is just nature’s way of giving us one more reason to smile. The fawn will leave on its own in just a couple of days, so take a picture and leave the baby for its real mother.
Blue Seal Feeds
Western New York Territory Manager