May through June is fawning season.
This time of year, Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary begins to receive calls about “abandoned” fawns. Well intentioned people will phone about a baby deer they have found huddled alone on the ground and ask us what to do.
Our answer is usually very simple, “Keep your distance and leave it alone!”
It is not because we do not care, but this is how the fawn remains safe from predators.
It is rare that a doe will abandon her baby. A doe works very hard to keep her fawn protected.
Immediately after giving birth, the mother will remove her own scent by thoroughly cleaning the fawn. Within hours of being born, a fawn will begin to test their ability to walk and will wobble along behind the doe away from the birthing area and to the security of a hiding place.
The fawn will then instinctively lie down and cover. If a doe has twins, or even triplets, she will find separate hiding places for each of them. The hiding place can be at the edge of a forest, field or in tall grass or vegetation. However, as a deer’s natural habitat continues to diminish, those hiding places can be in urban areas around homes, golf courses, parks and even office buildings.
The mother will then leave the area so as not to attract predators. Do not worry though, she is generally within 200 yards and will return 2-3 times a day to nurse her baby. They will often switch hiding places after feeding.
This is not the only line of defense for a fawn. Their reddish-brown coat has over three hundred spots that act as camouflage. This, coupled with the ability to lie motionless as well as being able to reduce both their heart rate and breathing, makes them virtually invisible to predators.
It should be noted that it is a myth that a doe will reject her fawn if someone touches it, but that does not mean you should. It is also a myth that a fawn does not have a scent. They do have a slight, unique smell that allows the mother to identify them. However, by touching a fawn, you may introduce or spread a new scent that attracts a predator.
So, how do you know when a fawn actually needs help?
-If there are obvious injuries.
-If you see a fawn wandering around bleating or crying.
-If there is a dead doe in the area.
-If the fawn has not moved in 10 hours or seems unresponsive, lethargic and has flies around their body.
If you notice any of these things, do not attempt to feed the fawn, instead contact your local, licensed wildlife rehabilitator.