A fawn, or baby deer, who is alone has not necessarily been abandoned. Mother deer spend most of their time away from young offspring so they can forage and to keep the babies hidden from predators. Disturbing a fawn who doesn't need to be rescued can do more harm than good. Be absolutely sure the youngster needs help before taking action.
Stop, Look and Listen
Before approaching the fawn, take a minute to evaluate the situation. Is he laying down or wandering around, crying or quiet? Is mom hiding somewhere nearby? It is natural for the fawn to remain perfectly still and absolutely quiet. This is how he stays safe from predators. The mother may also be hiding just out of sight. A healthy fawn may let you approach but will be alert and aware of his surroundings. If he appears dazed or unaware of his surroundings, is wandering around or is calling out, he may have been abandoned.
Approach With Caution
Your scent will not stop mom from returning, but it can lead a predator straight to the fawn. If you decide to touch the fawn to determine whether the creature needs help, check for dehydration, hypothermia and diarrhea. Gently pinch the skin between the shoulder blades. When you let go, the skin should immediately spring back into place. If it sticks together or returns slowly, the fawn may be dehydrated. Feel inside the mouth to be sure the saliva is thin and flowing, not thick or sticky. It should feel warm, since the normal body temperature for a fawn is 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If it feels cool, the fawn may be experiencing hypothermia. Finally, check under the tail for signs of diarrhea, such as moisture or staining.
Flies will pester healthy and unhealthy animals alike, but a sick fawn will have an excessive number of flies and won't make an effort to shake them off his body. He may also have maggots under his tail if he is experiencing severe diarrhea. A fawn who is so sick that he doesn't care if flies are crawling all over him, especially in his nose and eyes, needs immediate care.
A fawn's best defense is to stay hidden. To do this, he tucks his legs under his body and remains as still as possible. If he is frightened, he will extend his neck and press his head flat against the ground to make himself less visible. This position can make it appear as if his legs are broken. Even if you pick him up, he may keep his legs tucked this way. This is a normal and natural position for a fawn. If he is laying with his legs stretched out, or on his side, he is probably in distress.
Give It Time
Mother deer, or does, will leave a fawn for up to 10 hours at a time. Upon return, she will normally move the fawn to another location, especially if she thinks a predator may be nearby. If the fawn remains in the same place after 10 hours, he may have been abandoned. Unless he is obviously ill or in distress, leave him where he is for at least 10 hours before attempting a rescue.
If the fawn is truly abandoned or in need of urgent care, contact a local wildlife rescue organization immediately. If you must transport the fawn, wrap him in an old blanket and place him on the floorboard or another safe spot where he won't slide around while you drive. Transport him directly to the rescue center. It is important that the fawn have appropriate food, contact with other deer and proper medical care. In many states it is illegal to foster, raise or keep wild animals such as deer without proper licensing.
- Second Chance Wildlife Center: How to Tell if That Fawn Really Needs Your Help
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Deer Fawn FAQ
- The Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory: Deer Fawns ... What to Do if You Find One
- Wildlife Fawn Rescue: Why Would a Mother Do That?
- Wildlife Rescue League: Deer