The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 13, 2013

Fawns best left in the wild


The News Courier

— Every year, well-meaning people destroy the lives of young animals by attempting to rescue them from the wild.

This is especially true of white-tailed deer fawns, which are often left alone during the day while the mother is feeding nearby. According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, this is a normal occurrence.

“Does often leave fawns alone for extended periods of time,” Wildlife Biologist Ray Metzler said. “Fawns rely on their camouflage to avoid detection as they lay motionless on the forest floor because they are often unable to outrun predators at an early age. The doe will return to check on the fawn and nurse it, so human intervention is not necessary.”

Metzler said deer and other wild animals need to learn how to fend for themselves, and this is an important part of their survival.

“Taking animals from the wild prevents them from learning about natural enemies and other necessary survival skills,” he said.

Most wild mammals, including fawns, are protected under the law and may not be legally taken from the wild or kept as pets. In most cases, fawns will be fine if left alone. Fawns are difficult animals to rear in captivity and have the greatest chance for survival if left alone in their native habitat, Metzler said.

Here are some facts about deer to keep in mind:

• Fawns are left in protective cover until three weeks of age. The mother will return two to eight times per day to feed them. She may not return when there is a person within sight.

• Does will continue to care for fawns that have been touched by humans.

• Does will accept missing fawns for up to 48 hours.

• Fawns do not digest the milk of other animals well and may dehydrate quickly from diarrhea if fed cow’s milk.

• Fawns raised with only human contact can become dangerous when sexually mature.

For more information on fawn survival or to find the district wildlife office nearest you, go online to http://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/contacts/wildlifesec.cfm.