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What Are the Deer Doing?

fawnIf 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 and summer!

In 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, would she?

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.

fawnAnother 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.

Mom "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.

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