Every year, fawns are reported by the caring public as being orphaned or abandoned. Sometimes it is a case of death of the doe, leaving the fawn orphaned. Sometimes it is a case of an injured fawn, causing the doe to abandon her baby. Unfortunately, it is often a case of not being orphaned at all, but rather the mother just being out of sight.
If you come across a lone fawn, remember, DO NOT TOUCH! Keep a distance and call your local wildlife rescue or the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. An assessment of the situation will be made and proper measures taken, if warranted. In the event the fawn truly is orphaned and is deemed a viable candidate for rehabilitation, a local rescue can help. Local Boise-area contacts: Animals in Distress Association: (208) 367-1026; Liz Scott, veterinarian: (208) 466-4613.
Now, some fawn facts:
Mother deer will leave their fawn for hours while they go off to feed nearby. The mother does this so predators will not see a vulnerable fawn when they see her. She can be gone many hours, leaving the camouflaged and scent-free fawn motionless, avoiding detection.
Is it injured? If a fawn is seen lying upright, eyes wide open, but flattened to the ground, do not touch it! This is a fawn's camouflage position to blend in with its surroundings. When the fawn is picked up, it will allow its body to become limp and dangle in your hands. The legs are not broken! Put the baby down, walk away and leave the area.
If a fawn is obviously ill or injured - lying on its side, kicking and crying, bleeding, etc. - gently pick her up and place her in a safe, quiet place. A light cloth placed over the eyes will often calm it. Keep the fawn away from pets and other human activity. Please do not feed the fawn.
The fawn is on the road! Why? Because the mom is nearby! If the fawn is in danger, gently pick it up and place it safely off the side of the road and leave the area.
Is it too late to return to the mother if the fawn has been handled by humans? That is an old wives' tale. The mother doesn't care - she just wants her baby back. Her maternal instinct is much stronger than her ability to rationalize human scent on her baby.
What happens to the fawn if a rescue is warranted? It is evaluated and checked for any injuries, dehydration, etc. Wounds are treated either on the premises or through the services of a local veterinarian. The fawn is put on an appropriate diet and feeding schedule. Once the fawn gains strength and can nurse from a bottle, the "blind feeding method" is utilized using "hands off" bottle racks.
Human contact is kept to a minimum. The fawns are kept in an isolated area - free from predators and forming their own little "herd." They are free to browse and live in a large, safe enclosure. Over the course of the season, the fawns are slowly introduced back into the wild.
Dory McIsaac is with Mystic Farm Wildlife Rescue Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization located in Sagle. It is a licensed facility available to provide rehabilitation and release back into the wild of orphaned and/or injured animals. Call (208) 241-7081.