If you happen across a fawn, no matter if it’s in a yard or in the wilderness, leave it alone.
That’s the message from the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS) and WildSafeBC, which both say while baby deer may look lonely and defenceless, they and other wild animals should not be touched or moved.
“Every year, well-intentioned people try to “rescue” fawns and other young ungulates (hoofed mammals) mistakenly thought to be orphaned, but these interventions do more harm than good,” the COS said in a press release.
“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.”
The COS said when mother deer do return, they can be expected to defend their young from real or perceived threats – including humans and their pets.
The COS also said it’s typical for young ungulates to lie quietly in vegetation for hours at a time, especially during the first two weeks of their lives when they’re not strong enough to follow their mothers.
“Although these babies may look abandoned, they are not,” said the COS. “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.
- 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.
The COS says if you’re concerned that a fawn is injured or orphaned, contact the Conservation Officer Service through the (RAPP) line 1-877-952-7277.
Notably, the COS said it dealt with several individuals who were charged last year after taking possession of live fawns, stating the fawns were not orphaned or injured but were fawn-napped.
“Every year, well-meaning people doom deer fawns to an unnatural life in confinement or kill them accidentally by ‘rescuing’ them,” said the COS. “It’s dangerous and unnecessary.
“This is especially a problem in Kelowna, 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 their mother.”
The COS says taking a fawn into your care is against the law, with fines starting at $345 for unlawful possession of live wildlife.
At the same time, the COS and WildSafeBC are also asking dog owners to be responsible for their pet’s actions and to ensure dogs are on a leash, securely tied or fenced in when you’re away from home. Doing so, say the organizations, could prevent possible clashes with deer.