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June 5, 2018

It’s that time of year again! You get on Facebook or Instagram and see posts from well-meaning folks that have found an “abandoned” whitetail fawn and want to know how to take care of it. For years, the myths surrounding whitetail fawns have led to irreparable human intervention, and in return, hurt the wild deer population in your area. Unnecessary human intervention among wildlife species can often do more harm than good. These animals were around WAY before us, so let’s just let them keep on doing what they’re good at; surviving in the wild!

The most common myth surrounding whitetail fawns that I have heard is that if the baby has been touched by a human, its mother will reject it and it will die. This is not true! Research has shown time and time again that does will still return and care for their young, even if handled by a human. Whitetail does leave their newborn fawns for hours at a time to forage to keep up with their own nutritional needs. If momma doesn’t eat, babies can’t eat! Whitetail fawns typically spend their first 3-4 weeks hidden in dense cover on the ground until they are big enough to follow their mother around on a daily basis. This is why it is important (if you manage your own land for deer) to keep certain designated areas thick with understory vegetation to allow for fawns to have good cover from predators while they are at their most vulnerable.

So what should you do if you find a whitetail fawn alone, with no mother in sight? If it is not injured or ill, leave it be! Its mother will be back shortly to take care of her most prized possession. However, if you come across a fawn that is obviously injured or sickly, it might be time to intervene. If you come across a deceased doe from a vehicle collision or other causes, check nearby to see if a fawn is hiding close by. This is an instance where the fawn has actually been “orphaned” and needs help. If any of these unfortunate situations happen to be why a fawn is found, contact your local wildlife rescue or a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. They will be able to advise you what to do in specific situations. DO NOT try to care for a fawn on your own. The nutritional needs of a newborn fawn are far too complex for most people to handle, and don’t forget; this is a wild animal. They are not pets, and they will not act as such. Wildlife rehabilitators are certified and trained on providing proper care for wildlife in their area, and this leads to greater success rates of the animals being released back in to the wild in the future.

As humans, we all want to “help” the small and vulnerable creatures we may stumble upon. By learning about wild animal behavior and what to do if our paths should cross, we can save more animals by making the educated decision to leave them alone. Deer and other wildlife have survived natural disasters, wildfires, and predators for millions of years, but human ignorance is by far the biggest threat they can face.

So take pictures, admire from a distance, and appreciate the moment when you come across that delicate fawn so tightly tucked away in the brush. Its mother will return, and you might just get to see that special baby grow into something incredible.

 

Brae Buckner

 

*Outdoor Alabama keeps an up-to-date list of wildlife rehabilitators in the state of Alabama. You can find this list here. *
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