A fawn or baby deer is a pretty, little creature. Like the young of all mammals, they are cute and playful. When a person encounters the young of wild animals that appear to need help, the kindest and safest thing to do is leave them alone.
Last week, I saw a fawn in my front yard around 8 p.m., less than a stone's throw from the back door. At first, I did not know what it was. When I went outside to get a better look, I could tell it was a fawn just a few hours old. The baby deer was still there when it got dark, but it was gone when I left the house early the next morning.
Many people call the DNR about wild, orphaned animals they have picked up. This is simply an error in judgment. Too many people think they are doing a good deed when they are actually doing more harm than good to the baby wild animal. Wild animals have their best chance of survival when they are left in their own natural environment.
Seeing a fawn alone does not mean it is orphaned or needs help. Fawns are not defenseless animals. Their tendency to stay perfectly still and lack of scent are adaptations to help them survive. Quite often, the mother deer will return under cover of nightfall to nurse, groom and possibly relocate her baby.
Does are easy to detect because of their size and scent. Naturally, they stay a distance from their fawn except during brief nursing and grooming periods so that predators cannot move in on them. This hands-off policy also applies to bear cubs. When people living in rural areas are lucky enough to see a deer fawn, bear cub or the young of any large wild animal, they should only look at it for a minute or so, but do not touch. Leave the area for a little while so the mother animal will not think it is in any danger when she comes to nurse the baby.
In West Virginia, most of the pregnant does will have dropped their fawns by now. In a few weeks, they will be running with their mothers, foraging on their own. I have always found this to be an interesting scene to watch.
There are many other reasons why people cannot and should not ever try to keep and raise a fawn. The leading one is that it is against the law. Large, wild animals usually do not make good pets. When they become adults, they are no longer cute and cuddly. They have lost their natural fear of humans so they can be dangerous.
If you see a fawn and have questions, call the Elkins Operations Center at 304-637-0245 and talk to a wildlife biologist. These qualified people know how to care properly for a young, wild animal that needs help. Unless you can confirm that the mother is dead, leave it alone.