Don't Move the "Abandoned" Fawn

Don't Move the "Abandoned" Fawn

I have noticed a rash of posts on Reddit lately, from people who have found "abandoned" fawns outside. I always cringe when I see these, adorable as the fawn pictures are. Because the truth is that the fawn hasn't been "abandoned." And every year, hundreds of well-meaning people inadvertently destroy these fawns' chances for a normal, healthy life.
Most fawns are born in early to mid-summer, between early June and late July. Unlike most other hoofed mammals, fawns do not have the strength or stamina to follow their mothers until they are two months old. But their mothers - under an additional metabolic load due to nursing - obviously need to feed and forage during that time.
The deer's strategy - and given the number of deer in North America, I think we can call it a very successful one - is to camouflage its baby. This is why fawns have all of those adorable spots: they help break up the baby's shape, and make it easier to hide in the sun-dappled underbrush of a forest or field. It also helps that fawns are born with no scent, making it impossible for scent hunters (like dogs) to find them.
A fawn's instinct is to curl up and lie very still until its mother returns. This is a great instinct from a preservation standpoint. Unfortunately it is not as helpful when it comes to protecting the fawn against humans who really do just want to help.
Fawning season happens to coincide with the season when people are most likely to be outdoors during the day. Kids are out of school, bored and curious. Adults find themselves outdoors to garden and do yardwork. And for animals (like ourselves) equipped with color vision, a fawn is actually pretty easy to spot.
Young fawns need to feed every few hours, so when you find a small fawn, the mother is probably very nearby. She may be bedded down in a nearby stand of brush, or she may have slipped away into the shadows of some trees. Either way, she is most likely watching you keenly, even if you can't spot her. Larger fawns will be left on their own for up to 12 hours before mama comes back.
If you find a fawn in your yard, do not disturb it! Keep children and dogs away. Do not touch the fawn. Take pictures, of course, because it's both adorable and interesting. Then retreat to a safe distance, ideally inside the house. By the time darkness falls, the fawn's mother will have fetched it safely away.