Summer in Alabama means outdoor enthusiasts are spending time hiking, biking and enjoying the many recreational activities available. At this time of year, it’s quite common to find fawns that appear to be abandoned. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division encourages citizens not to remove these animals from the wild because it is illegal to be in possession of any live whitetailed deer.

Many people believe that because the fawn is alone it must have been abandoned. They decide that the fawn needs “rescuing,” so they remove it. Often they take the fawn home where someone attempts to raise it. Doing so will negatively affect the welfare of the animal and could transmit diseases to domestic animals and people.

That seemingly abandoned fawn probably isn’t abandoned at all. A doe sometimes forages for food while a fawn is nearby. Since fawns are virtually scentless and well camouflaged, the doe moves away while feeding so that her scent doesn’t attract a predator to the fawn’s location. She is using natural instinct to protect her fawn.

Fawns, as well as other young, wild animals, have needs that humans do not realize. Once habituated to humans, these deer, even if raised to adult age, can rarely be successfully returned to the wild. So, if you come across one of these fawns, the best advice is to just leave it there. If you have already removed one, then it is best to return it and release it exactly where it was found. Remember, wild animals aren’t meant to be pets.