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What Are the Deer Doing?
If animals could really talk to us as some believe, and if they could
call us on their cell phones with their complaints, we know what the
most common complaint would be. They would be begging us to do something
about the mass "kidnapping" of their young every spring
the case of a deer fawn, a script similar to the following is played
out dozens of times every year: A Good Samaritan is driving down the
road, walking, or hiking, and they see a beautiful deer fawn curled
up and all alone. Surely it must have been abandoned! No responsible
mother would leave such a tiny, vulnerable thing to fend for itself,
Ahhh! But yes! She would, if she were a deer mom. In fact, quite often
she is only a short distance away, but keeping a close eye on the
fawn. Should she see a known predator draw near, she'll become animated
to draw attention to herself. Once she has it, she will run away with
the predator in pursuit and return again once she feels it is safe.
Deer moms need to leave their fawns to forage for food in the woods,
but will periodically return to nurse.
Depending on the distance she must forage, mom and baby may be apart
from 6 to 16 hours. Sometimes the fawn needs to stretch and move a
bit as the time between visits can be long. It may appear to be wandering
about aimlessly, but it is really trying to pick up its mother's trail.
When it finds the trail, the fawn might follow her trail until they
meet. It is really quite amazing, but it does work for them.
A fawn is truly in trouble are when it makes bleating sounds similar
to a human baby crying in full distress. Otherwise, fawns remain calm
and move very little when everything is fine. Though they will allow
humans to approach, touch, and handle them, please don't.
Only if it is observed to have a fractured bone or a bleeding wound,
should help be given. This is rarely the case, however, and unless
a deceased nursing deer is located, it is safe to assume that all
is well. Be comfortable walking by and feeling blessed that such a
close encounter with this precious being has occurred.
Another odd phenomenon that is commonly seen is that of a fawn lying
on the asphalt of a road, often said to be "on the fog line."
(That's the bright white line that is supposed to help us navigate
our roads on dark or foggy nights). Again, this is an unusual behavior,
but practical from the point of view of the deer.
"parks" her fawn on the edge of the road because the asphalt
has retained the heat of the day and begins to radiate that heat back
out into the night. The road makes a great heating pad, especially
on the cold nights and mornings of early spring. An acceptable degree
of help in these cases would be to gently lift and move the deer fawn
off into the roadside ditch or brush, out of the sight of other humans,
and leave it there. Mom will return.
Lots of other animals and birds are 'kidnapped' at this time of year.
In fact every year hundreds and hundreds of baby "wild things"
are carefully and lovingly snatched up off of the ground by compassionate
humans and brought into human dwellings. There they are subjected
to the fearful sounds of human conversation, television, and the smells
and sounds of pet dogs, cats and children.
By this time the poor creature, certain it has been captured by a
large predator, is dropping into a state of shock, fear, and depression.
In the majority of cases the animal has no injuries at all. The stress
levels tolerated are very high but, as is true with most wild animals,
they will try to hide any weakness as long at they can.
Finally, utterly terrified, these new little beings begin to shut
down. These deteriorating symptoms are expressed by the animal becoming
very still and quiet. Unfortunately their human rescuers perceive
this behavior as an improvement when the creature is actually going
into deeper shock.
We can prevent much of this fear and suffering by just stopping to
think about the circumstances of the creature we are encountering.
If you are uncertain about its welfare, WSWS encourages you to call
us and we will be very pleased to help. Together we can choose
a beneficial course of action for both you and the perplexing young
wild thing you have encountered.