Why You Should Never “Rescue” Baby Deer You Find Alone In The Wild

Why You Should Never “Rescue” Baby Deer You Find Alone In The Wild

While out walking in deer country, you just might come across what some call “lost fawns”. These deer babies are often found curled up at the base of a tree or beneath a bush, but they do not need you to rescue them.

Adult deer with babies in tow have evolved a smart way to go out foraging. Instead of allowing their all legs, no balance offspring to slow them down, they stash their babies in hiding places, and fawns are expert hiders.

The babies of most deer species have spots on their backs that fade as they age, and this is because they need them for camouflage when they’re young. While mom goes out foraging, the babies will curl up and remain motionless, and newborns spend more than 95 percent of their time hiding in this way.

When it comes to the big game animals, this is one of two approaches observed in nature for keeping young alive. While deer are known as “hiders”, other animals like bison and bighorn sheep are “followers” as their offspring immediately get on their feet and start following mom around.

a baby deer camouflaged among leaf litter

Fawns are so well camouflaged wildlife photographers often report almost stepping on them by accident.

Image credit: Karel Bock / Shutterstock.com

Deer fawns take a more relaxed approach to early life, getting on their feet only to nurse their mothers before she goes back out into the field in search of food. Understandably, finding Bambi all alone in the big scary woods has led lots of people to fear they are in trouble and “rescue” the lone animal, but this is a big mistake.

A deer mom remembers where she stashed her fawns, and if they get moved by humans there’s a chance she won’t find them again. Picking up a fawn can drastically reduce their chances of survival, and they are difficult animals to rear in captivity, so even the best of intentions to get a fawn some medical help can actually be a fatal misunderstanding.

For that reason, wildlife services strongly advise that you do not touch baby deer you spot in the wild as they are very rarely abandoned and mom is usually only a short distance away. Human presence can prevent her from returning, so it’s best to leave the fawns well alone.

There are some exceptions, such as if a fawn is found next to its dead mother, is visibly injured, or is seeking out your attention and bleating in distress. In these instances, it’s best to call your local wildlife service for help so that they can properly assess the situation and work out the best next steps.

a fawn hiding under branches in the wood waiting for its mother

They look helpless, but baby deer are expert hiders.

Image credit: Todd Maertz / Shutterstock.com

What to do if you find a baby deer alone in the woods

In light of this, the Wildlife Aid Foundation put together three golden rules for if you find a fawn to try and prevent well-meaning members of the public from causing unintentional harm. So, if you find a deer fawn, here’s what to do:

  1. Do not touch it – the only exception to this golden rule is if the animal is in immediate danger, such as standing in the middle of the road. Touching deer fawns can increase their chance of being rejected by their mother, as she will be able to pick up the human scent.
  2. Walk away quietly – deer mothers rarely go far when they forage. Human presence may be preventing her from returning, and if you have a dog it’s best to pop it on a leash so she doesn’t get scared away.
  3. Call the experts – if you have reason to believe the animal is in real danger, such as if you have found it next to its dead mother, call your local wildlife center for assistance.

Follow these rules and with a bit of luck, Bambi and mom will be just fine.

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