Like many ungulates, black-tailed deer reduce the risk of a predator finding their young by hiding them. Does will leave the fawn alone for long periods of the day to forage, only returning for short periods to allow the youngster to suckle.
It is common for the mother to feed and sleep a considerable distance from the fawn’s bed spot to reduce the chance of leading a predator to her young, so even if a predator finds the doe, the fawn may still have a chance at survival. This behaviour begins as soon as the fawn is born and will continue for the first few weeks of the fawn’s life.
When the fawn is not nursing, it will curl up in its bedding site, often in tall grassy areas, and lay motionless. The white spots on the newborn coat aid in camouflaging its body to the surroundings, and only begin to disappear 90-120 days of age when their winter coats begin to come in.
It is incredibly common for wildlife rehabilitation centres to receive hundreds of calls in the spring from people who have found an “orphaned” fawn, in a state similar to the one described above. This is perfectly normal, and the general advice is to leave the fawn alone, as the mother is likely nearby and will be caring for it following your departure.
If the fawn appears cold, weak, thin, injured, or parasites can be seen clearly on its body, call WildArc for guidance going forward. If you find a seemingly healthy fawn but the mother has not returned in over 8 hours, also call WildArc.
If you’ve handled a fawn, rub an old towel on the grass and gently wipe the fawn down with it to remove any human scent. If you’ve moved the fawn from the site you found it, gently return the fawn to where it was found using gloves and/or a towel. Fawns and their mothers can generally be reunited if they are returned to the location they were found within 8 hours.
Never take a fawn home and attempt to nurse it back to health on your own, regardless of the state it is in. Besides, it is illegal to keep wildlife without a proper permit, you are likely kidnapping the fawn from a perfectly healthy and happy mother. Continued contact with people will cause it to become habituated and can lead to an unhealthy relationship with humans, and it will no longer be able to be returned to the wild.
BC SPCA Wild Arc: (250) 478-9453