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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Out and about: Defensive does get tough to protect fawns

A white-tailed deer with a newborn fawn nearby rushes tail-high at an intruder walking through the woods. Does and cow elk and moose can be aggressive. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

That’s not Doezilla stomping on your dog. It’s most likely a whitetail mom with a newborn fawn nearby.

Several cases of deer being aggressive to people and pets were reported to Idaho Fish and Game Department offices last week, mostly from Dalton Gardens, where some ill-advised people feed deer and, to the displeasure of others, encourage the animals to live in the neighborhoods.

In wild areas, a doe is more likely to wander off to lure potential trouble away from where she last fed and left her fawn hiding flat on the ground. The mom can stay away for hours.

But knowingly or unknowingly approaching a momma deer, elk or moose at the wrong time, whether in the suburbs or the forest, can prompt a defensive reaction.

Vickie Sienknecht and a friend were walking on a lane from a cabin at Sherry Lake east of Colville on Tuesday with her golden retriever just a bit ahead of her when they noticed a deer across a fence on the neighbor’s property.

“I told Desi to stay, so she was just looking at it,” Sienknecht said. “The deer started to walk toward her, then started stomping her feet. We knew that was aggressive behavior so we called Desi. She started toward us, then the deer jumped the fence and started after her.

“We started yelling and Desi ran past us with the deer right after her.”

The doe caught the dog and pummeled it with its hooves.

“Poor Desi was yelping and trying to get away while we’re trying to scare off the deer,” Sienknecht said. “She moved back a little, then tried to come in again. We scared her off a little ways, but she was still snorting and stomping and acting like she was going to charge again.”

Their dog was bruised but OK. The neighbors’ miniature schnauzer wasn’t so lucky in a separate attack. The doe came into their yard and up on the patio to hammer the dog, which later required a trip to the vet, surgery and stitches.

Does tend to move their fawns often to try to foil predators, so they generally don’t pose a problem in a single area for more than a day or two.

Sienknecht reported seeing a doe the next day trailed closely by “an itty bitty wobbly legged fawn” crossing a road about a half mile away – into the Lake Gillette Campground.

Late May through mid-June is peak fawning time.

“A doe will no longer be aggressive toward people once her fawn is able to run to escape danger,” said Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game Department educator. “This should occur by the time the fawn is two to three weeks old.”

To reduce the chances of unpleasant encounters with deer, consider these tips from wildlife professionals:

Do not feed deer as this can cause them to lose their natural fear of people.

Observe deer from a distance. If you see a solo doe this time of year, leave her alone and go the other way.

Keep pets contained. Dogs in particular trigger defensive reactions momma deer, elk and moose.

If you find a fawn alone, do not disturb it and leave the area. A mom is nearby getting anxious about a potential threat around her baby.