Don’t move! New white tailed deer fawns natural instincts are to remain motionless to avoid detection. This young fawn was spotted near Sand Lake NWR Headquarters. (Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS)

by Rebecca Michelin, Director, Schuylkill Center Wildlife Clinic

“There is an abandoned baby deer in my backyard, can I bring him to you?”

We are still regularly receiving calls at the clinic about baby deer sightings. White-tailed deer usually give birth during May and June, but it is not uncommon to see newborn babies as late as September. Within a few hours of birth, fawns are able to stand, walk and nurse, but they are not yet strong enough to keep up with the herd as it travels long distances in search of forage. A fawn that is found alone with no other deer nearby has not necessarily been abandoned, so it is important to fully assess the situation before taking any action to intervene.

To keep their babies safe, mothers will choose a place to give birth that has some physical cover like long grass or low bushes, and then leave the baby alone for most of the day, returning only after dusk to nurse. Fawns instinctively know that their best defense is to lie still and stay silent so they won’t be detected by predators. At this age, they haven’t developed their scent glands and can’t be found by smell, and they can be so well camouflaged and lie so still that you could almost step on a fawn before you see it.

If you come across a hidden fawn who is lying in a curled position with its head down and is not crying or shivering, it is displaying normal behavior and should not be disturbed. Please keep pets and children away and allow the fawn to remain where it is until the mother returns.

Unfortunately, sometimes the spot in which the mother leaves the fawn is inconveniently located or unsafe, like in front of a garage door or beside a commonly used walkway. In other cases, a fawn could be disturbed or frightened away from its hiding place – it might bolt in fear, and then just drop to the ground as soon as it can. If the fawn is in immediate danger, you can approach quietly, gently cover it with a blanket and carefully carry it to safer spot close by (less than 50 feet away). Do not handle the fawn more than necessary and be careful not to disturb it again once it has been moved.

If you find a fawn that is wandering alone, crying, shivering, following people or visibly injured, contact your closest wildlife rehabilitator. Unfortunately, finding a facility that is able to accept fawns may be challenging, as there are a lot of factors that influence whether a deer can be rehabilitated. Because of the risks associated with transmission of diseases like chronic wasting disease, most rehab facilities can only accept fawns from their immediate area, and fawns found within a Disease Management Area cannot be rehabilitated at all. In some cases, a rehabber may advise you to leave the fawn in an area where a herd is known to be living in the hopes that another mother deer will adopt the orphan.

If you have any questions about fawns or other wildlife, please contact our clinic hotline at 215482-8217, available 24 hours a day for emergency situations involving injured or orphaned wild animals. Have a wildlife-related question you would like to see answered in an upcoming article? Send your questions to wildlife@schuylkillcenter.org

Rebecca Michelin is the director of the Schuylkill Center Wildlife Clinic.

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