In light of the current Covid-19 precautions, many people are spending more time in and around their yards and gardens, as well as talking walks outside for some fresh air. Our wildlife center has been busier than ever since so many people are now happening upon wildlife. Some are truly injured or orphaned and do need help, but many of the animals being found are simply babies that are “doing their thing”.
Just because a baby or young animal is observed “on its own” does not necessarily mean that it is abandoned or needs assistance. Sometimes they are simply learning and exploring a little on their own. Sometimes their wild mother is close by. Understanding what is normal and natural is vitally important to assure that wildlife babies are not needlessly “rescued” and taken away from their parent(s).
Every year, from late April through July, we get many calls regarding fawns that people discover, seemingly with no mother nearby, and callers are concerned that the fawns may have been abandoned. Unfortunately, many of these fawns wind up being “kidnapped” when rescuers unknowingly pick them up and take them home, meaning well but actually interfering with what is natural behavior for white-tailed deer.
Very young fawns have no scent, and when they are under two weeks old they are too small and weak to run from predators, so the mother deer (doe) will leave her fawn in a safe, quiet spot to keep them safe from predators. In the case of twin or triplet fawns, the doe often beds them all down in separate locations and will move from one to the other checking on them. The doe comes back every few hours to check on her fawn and nurse it. Natural behavior for the fawn is to lie curled up on the ground, most often with their head down, and to be very still.
A person can walk right up to a fawn and it will not run. This is normal behavior. Fawns and does have been practicing social distancing before it became “cool” for the humans to do so! As the fawn gets a little older, the doe may stay away for hours at a time, sometimes for up to eight hours, returning to her fawn(s) only after dark. Once a doe finds a spot she feels is safe, she may leave her fawn there for days at a time.
The fawn may be found in the same general location, but it still appears healthy and exhibits no signs that it needs to be helped (such as pacing, crying, or appearing to be dehydrated). Fawns that are found resting and appear healthy should be left alone. Mom is nearby and will return every few hours to check on her baby and nurse them. Please do not intervene.
Fawns are sometimes found in locations that are not the safest; unfortunately the doe beds her baby or babies down very early in the morning, just before dawn, so a spot that was quiet and safe at that time of day may become less safe as the world wakes up. Fawns may even be found either on a roadway or on the side of a roadway. If a fawn in this situation appears otherwise healthy, and is lying curled up, the fawn should be gently picked up and moved to a safe distance off the road and then left for the mother.
Sometimes people call us about fawns inside of their fenced yards. The doe has most likely placed her baby there intentionally (she may even have given birth there). The doe can easily jump the fence to get in and out, but she knows her fawn will be contained there. If your yard is safe from dogs, etc., just be patient and enjoy watching mom and her baby. If you have dogs and cannot keep them away from the fawn for a few days, the fawn can be moved to the other side of the fence for mom to reunite with.
It is a myth that the mother will abandon her baby if a human has touched it, so it is OK to move a fawn if it is in a dangerous location. Fawns are hard wired to follow anything bigger than they are when they are very young; for this reason, if you do have to move a fawn, it may attempt to follow you. Be persistent; put the fawn back and get away as quickly as you can, even if you need to make several attempts. If needed, lay the fawn down facing away from you, pat it several times between the shoulder blades (mom’s way of saying “stay put”), and then walk quickly away from the hind end of the fawn.
A fawn DOES need help if: it is found standing by a dead mother; it is obviously ill or injured; is lying on its side with legs straight out and/or thrashing; it is crying; it is wet and/or cold (especially if the inside of the mouth is cold); it is covered with ants; it has a lot of flies around it or has fly eggs or maggots visible; it is in imminent danger of attack by dogs or other predator animals (not just “there are dogs in the area”; mom will protect her baby from dogs if they get too close); it is well after dark and the mother has still not returned and fawn has not moved from where you found it. If any of these are observed, wrap the fawn in a blanket and place it in a box or large carrier.
The most important thing is to get the fawn warm and dry (if it is wet). Towels warmed in the dryer work well, as do hot water bottles, Ziplock bags filled with warm water, and/or a heating pad set on low. Please do not feed the fawn any type of milk or formula. Fawns that are cold and/or dehydrated cannot digest anything, so feeding can cause it to go into shock or actually kill it.
Please call a wildlife rehabilitator or wildlife center ASAP. Until a rehabilitator can be reached, the fawn can be given warmed children’s Pedialtye or another type of rehydrating drink in a regular baby bottle. Keep the fawn warm, quiet, and away from domestic pets. Most often simply understanding what normal behavior is for wildlife babies is the best way to keep them safe and with their natural parent or parents.
Until restrictions are lifted on the current stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines, our center remains open for only limited hours each day. An appointment is necessary prior to bringing any animals to our facility, and paperwork will be filled out over the phone to facilitate a quick intake process. We do monitor emails after hours, so if you find an animal or need assistance, you can email [email protected]. Our education center will remain closed until things can return to normal, or at least a “new normal”. We remain committed to helping wildlife, but these restrictions have of course affected our finances and ability to fundraise.
We realize many people are having a difficult time right now, but if you are able, please consider supporting us and our efforts through Kroger Community Rewards or AmazonSmile. We receive quarterly donations from both of those organizations. You shop, we benefit!
To learn more about what we do and view pictures of many of the animals we assist, please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SavingTexasWildlife. Details can be found at www.ftlw.org, and then click on “How to Help”. We also have a great deal of helpful information on our website about other species of animals and how to assess if they need help or not. Stay healthy everyone!