Outdoors

Lone fawns rarely deserted by Mother Deerest

Whitetail fawn in hiding. (J. Foster Fanning)
Whitetail fawn in hiding. (J. Foster Fanning)

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A wildlife population explosion takes place around this time every year and anyone can stumble onto a baby critter virtually anywhere outside. 

“Wild bird and mammal species typically produce young in the spring and early summer,” says Phil Cooper of the Idaho Fish and Game Department. “This allows the young to have time to gain the strength and size needed to survive the challenges of winter, or the rigors and dangers of fall migration.”

Wildlife managers make little attempt to hover and protect individual fawns and calves being born to deer, elk and moose this spring. Nature is geared to some surviving and some perishing to the benefit of other wildlife.

Wild animal newborns are particularly vulnerable to predators in the first few days of life until they are able to run or fly well enough to escape predation.

Predators such as wolves, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, eagles, raccoons, skunks, weasels and other species need to eat to survive. Nature provides for them.

But nature shouldn't have to provide for domestic dogs and cats.

Pet owners can reduce wildlife injury or death to wild newborns during this critical period by keeping pets confined.  Although pets may have plenty of food available, their predatory instincts can take over when allowed to run at large. 

People also can help young wildlife by leaving them alone.

Every spring,  fish and wildlife agencies around the region receive several calls a day about deer fawns that people see, with no doe visible in the surrounding area, Cooper said.  Callers are often convinced that the fawn has been injured, abandoned or orphaned.

“While fawns are occasionally injured or orphaned, they are never abandoned,” he said.  “An adult doe has extremely strong parenting instincts and will not abandon a fawn.”

Wild parents often leave their offspring for long periods while they hunt or gather food.  A doe can leave her fawn hidden in the grass for eight hours until she determines the time is right to return and nurse.

Hanging around a fawn or calf you might discover in the field likely will likely push a doe or cow farther away and deter it from returning.

“IDFG has had fawns brought in by people who say, 'I stayed there and watched it all day, and the doe never came back,'” Cooper said. “Without realizing it, the presence of a person likely kept the doe in hiding.”

“If you find a seriously injured animal; or, in those extremely rare instances where you know with certainty that a wild animal has lost its parent, intervention may be appropriate.  Contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for instructions on the next step.”

It is illegal to confiscate young wildlife and attempt to raise them on your own, he said, noting that cute babies can become a burden or a danger to people as they mature.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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