baby deer

Found a Baby Deer? Here's What You Should & Shouldn't Do


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White-tailed deer fawns are a popular sight during spring as mother whitetail deer have their babies. While they may elicit images of Bambi, how do you navigate finding one in your yard? 

A fawn is sleeping under your deck. Even though it feels like you should immediately stop what you're doing and rescue this fawn,  often the mother deer finds a hiding place for her young deer while she finds food and water.

What to Do If You Find a Baby Deer

Baby deer are very clumsy and awkward when they are firstborn. Think Bambi at the beginning of the movie. He did not quite have a feel for his legs yet and was all over the place. In real life, fawns are very similar, though I doubt they have a whole host of wildlife cheering them on.

Their fir acts as their first line of defense. The brown coat and white spots allow them to blend in with their surroundings, so predators like bobcats can not find them, even if they are right under their noses. There are many deer found all over, and they all take the same steps to ensure that their fawns are safe. Roe deer, mule deer, and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus) may have slightly different habitats, but the tactic still works the same. The spotted fawns are tucked into a safe spot by their mothers and then "left" for a time.

Young animals are often left alone by their mothers while they eat, so they have the strength to take care of their young. Young fawns are no different.

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It is important to remember that human scent can scare a mom away from her baby deer, so make sure not to stay in the area for too long. Otherwise, you can risk harming healthy fawns. A "safe location" may be in your own backyard, but this is still safe!

According to Advanced Wildlife Control, warning signs that a baby deer may, in fact, be in trouble are:

"If you notice the fawn in the morning and it appears wet, as if the dew has collected on it, this is likely a sign that it is abandoned. While does will leave fawns for long stretches of time, they do not often leave them overnight. In addition, if the fawn has been alone for more than 10 hours at a time, it may be a sign that it is abandoned, as fawns feed approximately every 10 hours."

Who Do I Call About an Abandoned Baby Deer?

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If you find a baby deer keep your distance and monitor it periodically throughout the day. If you have not seen the doe in more than 10 hours and the fawn seems to be distressed, you can call a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. They will come out to see if the wild animal is indeed in need of their assistance.

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If a baby deer does need help, the rehabilitator will be able to take it with them. They take care of the baby fawns until they are ready to be released back into the wild again. However, wildlife rehabilitators will only take the fawn if they are sure that the mother truly has abandoned them.

Advanced Wildlife Control offers this advice if you find a wild animal and need some general guidelines. If you have an animal in need, please:

  • Do not handle the animal any more than necessary to contain it - this is for your protection as well as for the animal's well-being. Wild animals are terrified of humans. They may fight back, try to flee, or freeze. Many people mistake the "freeze" behavior for tolerance or enjoyment of contact when in reality, it is a fear response.
  • Do not feed the animal. Most animals eat specialized foods, and feeding can be dangerous to the animal's health. For example, did you know feeding a starving animal can kill the animal if it is not done properly?
  • Be cautious when choosing to leave water. Many wild animals do not drink standing water, and attempting to help them can result in pneumonia. In addition, if an animal spills its water and gets wet, it could get cold and may die. If in doubt, it is better not to leave water.
  • Call your local Wildlife Care Center as soon as you can. However, if you can't bring it to the center during open hours or believe the animal is in critical condition and needs immediate attention after hours, call your nearest emergency vet hospital.

The deer fawn you find in your yard is probably fine! You can remove baby animals if they're small and you're concerned they're in harm's way, but a lone fawn is probably in the tall grass on purpose. Leave the newborn fawns wherever you found them.

This article was first published on August 7, 2020.

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