As summer approaches, young wildlife will be emerging from their hiding places to venture into the world. Oftentimes, this typically is where when conflict occurs between nature and humans. Conservation offices and employees get a wide variety of calls and contacts about young wildlife being abandoned by their parents, especially “orphaned deer.” Some want to raise the wildlife themselves, while others want to know where to take the animal to be cared for. Raising wildlife without a proper permit is illegal. It takes training and expertise to raise an animal so it has the best chance of survival. Even with the proper care, the odds of survival aren’t good. There are few trained animal rehabilitation facilities in our area, and they have limited resources. They can’t take every animal.
Typically a young deer is not an “orphan.” When a doe produces its fawn, usually in May or June, it places that fawn in an area that is well suited to hide its young from predators. That fawn is thought to be odorless, producing no signs of smell for a predator to follow. This process allows the deer to have a very good chance of survival in the wild. When humans come in contact with a young fawn, we can contaminate it by leaving our scent on that fawn. Canines will often trace human scent for long distances just to see what we are up to, and they will find a fawn with that scent left on it very quickly for a nice meal. A doe will leave its fawn for several hours at a time in order to eat, drink and refurbish its milk supply to feed its young. Removing the fawn from its hiding place can make it extremely difficult to ensure that the young deer will be reunited with its mother and can potentially lead to the fawn’s death.
I’ve already received calls from folks finding fawns behind their barns, houses and farm equipment. My answer is always that to ensure the fawn’s survival, as cuddly as it may be, leave it where you found it so it can be reunited with its mother. Removing the fawn inevitably seals its fate with nature or human destruction. Enjoy nature, but leave it where it belongs.