Abandoned fawns might not be abandoned

Written on 06/16/2024
Bud Fields, Outdoors with Bud

At this time of year, many of the does that were successfully bred during last year's breeding season, commonly referred to as the rut, are giving birth to their young fawns. You will start noticing more does traveling with their babies, teaching them what to do for survival in the outdoors by showing them where they can locate food, water, and shelter.

Once they are weaned, they will still travel in their family group before leaving them. Within minutes of the fawns being born, they will obtain enough strength to walk around, and within a matter of a few days, they will be able to run distances following their mother. It is almost unbelievable how fast they can move for being so tiny.

I usually receive several emails, messages, or telephone calls from people who say they have found an abandoned fawn, and they want to know, “What can I do? I don’t want the fawn to die.” Many have called the Humane Society, the sheriff’s department, and the Department of Natural Resources, but no one knows what to do.

Well, to start out with, it is extremely rare that the fawn, or fawns, have been abandoned. People often find fawns and assume they are abandoned because they see the no mother nearby. However, newborn deer are often placed in the safety of cover while the mother ventures a short distance away to feed.

Her young will be relatively safely hidden in the cover. The mother does not want to draw attention to her young from other predators. When the fawns are born, they are completely scentless, and the predators cannot detect their presence. I have seen videos of stray dogs, foxes, and coyotes passing within mere feet from a fawn laying in the wide-open grass field. The predator never detected it as it laid completed still.

The mother will deliberately use herself as a decoy to draw the predator's attention to chasing her, and after leading the predator away, she will circle back and get her fawn.

It is only human nature to observe a fawn by itself and assume it has been abandoned. We immediately want to be protective of the fawn to assure its safety. What we may not realize is we can do more harm than good! In most cases, momma deer has hid the fawn where it should be safe and after she feeds, she will come back for the fawn.

In our excitement to rescue the fawn from injury, we pick it up, pet it, cuddle it, and at the same time, we might be committing a huge mistake. All deer hate human scent, and in our efforts to save the fawn, we put a lot of human scent on it. That can be very detrimental to the fawn.

The mother just might abandon the fawn due to the human scent, and we would never realize this dreadful mistake. All the officials I ever have conversed with recommend we leave the fawn alone and do not risk the chance of actually causing the fawn to be abandoned.

I am not saying there is no possibility the mother has met her demise by being hit by a motor vehicle, but if that has happened, the fawn stands a higher chance of being adopted by another doe. I have seen videos of mature does with her fawns that have actually adopted a fawn that lost its mother. But if that fawn had any human scent on it, the chances of the fawn being adopted by another doe would be very unlikely.

I have seen and heard where some well-meaning person found what they thought was an abandoned fawn, and they took it home and nursed it back to health or helped mend an injury. It basically became a pet and became totally dependent on humans for food and shelter. It lost all fear of humans, and then, when the rut rolled around the next deer season, it got loose and was running the fields. An unsuspecting hunter, not realizing it was a pet, made a terrible mistake and filled his tag.

To summarize, if you happen to observe a fawn alone, it is advised that we leave it alone and not give in to human nature. If the statistics are correct, the chance of the fawn surviving is much higher if the mother is very close feeding and will be returning to the fawn before long.