For several weeks after birth, a doe will leave its fawn alone for hours at a time. The fawn may appear lost or abandoned, but its mother’s apparent absence is purposeful. She avoids spending time in the fawn’s location in order to decrease her scent in the area or otherwise attract predators to the fawn. While the mother is feeding nearby, the fawn avoids detection by hiding motionless in a grassy area.
“Fawns raised by their mothers in the wild fare much better than those reared in captivity,” said Keith Gauldin, Wildlife Section Chief for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “Well-meaning individuals can actually cause more harm by removing it from its hiding place. The best option is to take a photo and leave the fawn where it was found.”
Most wild birds and mammals, including fawns, are protected by law and may not be legally taken from the wild or kept as pets. In the vast majority of instances, fawns will survive if left alone. Deer and other wildlife are difficult to rear in captivity and have the greatest chance for survival if left in their native habitat.
- Fawns are often left in protective cover until about three weeks of age.
- A doe will return two to eight times per day to feed its fawn.
- A doe will continue to care for its fawn, even if it has been touched by a human.
- A doe will accept a fawn that has been missing for up to 48 hours.
- If fed cow milk, fawns can dehydrate quickly from diarrhea.
- Deer raised by humans can become dangerous as they mature.
If a fawn is found with serious injuries or confirmed to be orphaned, contact the nearest wildlife rehabilitator permitted to handle deer. For a list of rehabilitators permitted by WFF, visit www.outdooralabama.com/current-wildlife-rehabbers.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.
Photo by Jean Watson