Spring Fawns Aren’t Orphans, So Let Them Be

South Carolina officials remind that young deer haven’t been abandoned

April 10, 2017

By Lisa Lakey

Although it might be tempting to take home a seemingly orphaned young deer, things aren’t always as they seem. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is reminding people that spring fawns haven’t been abandoned, and its best to let both mother and mother nature do their work.

“Many people who come upon a solitary spotted fawn in the woods or along a roadway mistakenly assume the animal has been deserted by its mother and want to take the apparently helpless creature home to care for it,” Charles Ruth, SCDNR Big Game Program Coordinator, said. “Young fawns like this have not been abandoned but are still in the care of a doe.”

Spring fawns, born during April-June, start moving around with their mothers daily about three to four weeks after birth. The doe begins spending parts of her day feeding and resting a little apart from her offspring. Her young typically stay bedded down but will move short distances to new bedding sites. According to Ruth, although the fawns seem to be abandoned by their mother, there’s actually more going on than can be seen.

“It’s part of nature’s plan for a doe deer to leave her fawn or fawns alone for their first few weeks of life,” he said. “The reason for this unusual maternal action is that the fawn at this age is better protected away from the doe. The presence of the doe nearby would attract predators because the doe lacks the protective coloration of the fawn, and the older and larger doe has a much stronger odor.”

Not only is taking a fawn from the woods a bad idea but one that could result in fines. Removing a deer from the forest outside of the hunting season is illegal. Human handling of a fawn could also result in the mother shying away or ultimately abandoning it, and the bleating response from a fawn could alert predators. And according to Ruth, adult deer are not intended to be pets.

“Each spring and summer the SCDNR gets many calls from people who have discovered these ‘lost’ deer,” Ruth said. “Young fawns are without a doubt cute and cuddly, but if taken into captivity they grow into semi-tame adult deer that can become quite dangerous.”

If you do spot a seemingly lost fawn, leave it be. Ruth said the SCDNR do not need the fawns for research, although many ask. Their current deer studies do not involve captive animals.

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