By Jenna Milne
WildSafeBC Coordinator, Invermere
They’re cute and defenseless – and they may look lonely – but baby deer and other wild animals should not be touched or moved.
Every year, well-intentioned people try to “rescue” fawns and other young ungulates mistakenly thought to be orphaned, but these interventions do more harm than good.
Mother deer, elk and other species may leave their young alone for long periods. To avoid attracting predators, a mother may only return a few times a day to nurse. When she does return, she can be expected to defend her baby from real or perceived threats-including nearby humans and their pets.
Remember: It’s typical for young ungulates to lie quietly in vegetation for hours at a time, especially in the first two weeks of their lives when they’re not strong enough to follow their mothers. Fawns are small as a cat when born, and their camouflage and lack of scent hide them from potential predators. Although these babies may look abandoned, they are not. However, if humans remove them from their rest spots, they can end up being orphaned.
If you see a fawn that you think may be orphaned, leave it alone. If the fawn is lying quietly and appears uninjured it is normal for a mother deer to leave her baby alone for long periods of time. Remember that the mother deer will be wary of you and is likely watching you, so your presence in the area could discourage her from returning. Leave the area and keep pets away from the site. If you think the fawn is not being cared for by its mother, return the next day to check on it. If it is in the exact same spot and bleating, it may be orphaned. If you are concerned that a fawn is injured or orphaned (i.e., there is evidence the parent is dead), contact the Conservation Officer Service through the RAPP line.
Locally last year, Conservation Officers dealt with several individuals who were charged after taking possession of live fawns and carrying them around for several hours. The fawns were not orphaned or injured but fawn-napped. The fawns were returned to the location they were found so that their mothers could be reunited with them.
Every year, well-meaning people doom deer fawns to an unnatural life in confinement or kill them accidently by “rescuing” them. It’s dangerous and unnecessary. This is especially a problem in Invermere, where lots of people and deer coexist. That means that doe deer and fawns must also contend with cars, roads, fences and dogs. Sometimes fawns get separated by roads or a fence, or chased by dogs, and it takes a while to get back together with its mother.
Taking a fawn into your care is against the law and you could be fined. Fines start at $345 for unlawful possession of live wildlife.
WildSafeBC is reminding people that the best thing they can do to ensure a fawn’s survival is to leave the newborn deer fawns alone. For more information please visit https://wildsafebc.com/deer/.