MAY 26 2022:
WE ARE CURRENTLY NOT TAKING FAWNS due to LOCAL OUTBREAKS of Chronic Wasting Disease. Click here to read our FAQs about fawns; 99% of the calls we get about fawns are cases where the fawn does not need help. For further help with fawns, contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources
The fawn is alone and I have not seen any sign of mom!
This is normal! Fawns under two weeks of age are left alone for up periods of time (sometimes up to or beyond 12 hours) during the day while the mom forages. Mom’s milk is rich and lasts all day. Newborn fawns are typically fed after dusk and before dawn. Not seeing a fawn with mom is not a cause for concern. Fawns over two weeks of age begin to move around on their own. Fawns begin to forage at this age and move around alone. Just because you don’t see mom does not mean that the deer needs help — mom is likely nearby but may not be visible.
I haven’t seen mom feed the baby! I am sure it is hungry.
This is normal to not see mom feed – please do not feed the fawn! Most people never see fawns being fed in the wild! Again, mom’s milk is super rich and can last a long time and she will return to feed when she doesn’t think anyone is around watching. Humans feeding any kind of commonly commercially available formula can cause death in an otherwise healthy fawn. It is common for people to rescue fawns and try to DYI it themselves, and the fawn is “fine” for a few days or even a week and then suddenly crash and die. They are very sensitive creatures. Additionally, when humans feed a fawn it prevents the doe from locating the fawn; the fawn only calls for mom when it is hungry, and a fawn with a full stomach does not bleat.
I know there are predators around – I am worried it is unsafe and unprotected because it is so young and alone!
Don’t worry, they are safe and protected! For the first couple of weeks fawns are too weak to follow their moms; she beds them down in the morning and their spotted coat provides safe camouflage for them. They may not look camouflaged to us but they are to most predators if they don’t move. Adult deer do have a scent, however fawns don’t smell strongly to other animals; while the doe forages, the unscented fawn cannot be detected when it is not moving. Some trail cameras have captured predators walking right by a fawn and not noticing that it is there because it hasn’t moved and doesn’t smell strongly.
The fawn hasn’t moved much in several days!
This is normal! The fawn might be left in the same area by the doe for up to 72 hours (however longer periods have been documented), especially if the doe feels it is safe. The location may not seem safe to a human, but deer know what they are doing.
The fawn has curly ears! I saw online that means it is dehydrated!
This seems to be just normal variation! It is a myth that curly ears on the fawn doesn’t mean they are dehydrated, but is most likely just a genetic variation. No scientific evidence exists that backs up this claim conclusively and is not a valid criteria for rescuing a fawn. In our experience, some curly-eared fawns are truly orphaned and dehydrated, but most of them are not and mom is still caring for them. A curly-eared fawn does not need to be rescued unless there is another reason for concern.
The fawn is following me!
This is uncommon, but normal! If a fawn begins to follow you, do not assume it needs help. Newborn fawns just see long legs passing by and they think you may be mom here to feed them! Leave the fawn alone and don’t interact with it as you quickly move away. The more interaction you have the worse it will be for the fawn as it could reveal itself to predators and venture into unsafe areas.
The fawn is lying in the middle of the road alone!
This is normal UNLESS the fawn is visibly injured. Fawns aren’t aware that paved roads, gravel, or concrete isn’t safe to lay on (they aren’t given classes to teach them about the dangers of roads and cars!). In the evenings the pavement can be warm or during the heat of the day, shaded areas of road provide cool surfaces to lay on. If a fawn is located in or next to the road and is at risk of being run over, it is acceptable to move the fawn within 30 feet of where you found it. We recommend rubbing your hands with nearby vegetation (to mask your scent) or picking it up through a towel or blanket before lifting and relocating it. Do NOT move the fawn far away of where you found it — this makes it harder for mom to find it later and the fawn could be infected with CWD. Wash or disinfect your hands after touching the fawn as soon as you can. If it is injured, scroll down to the injury section on what to do.
The fawn is making a lot of noise!
This is normal UNLESS it has been calling for 4+ hours straight. Fawns bleat when they are hungry and calling helps mom re-find them. Sometimes mom is far away or doesn’t feel safe approaching the fawn to feed it and may not come right away. If it is calling for four hours, there could be a problem, but we have had some cases where the fawn calls for six or more hours and then mom shows back up and feeds! If it has been over four hours, then call.
I see a visible injury on the fawn.
This is NOT normal. However, there are rules on what injuries are fixable or need to come in. If the wound is superficial or minor it is likely better to leave the fawn alone — bringing the fawn into rehab for treatment for minor injuries is more likely to kill it than save it because of something called capture myopathy (see below under “why fawns are hard to rehab”). If the fawn has broken leg, the fawn cannot be rehabbed — while some states will allow this, decades of medical experience from ourselves and our collaborators have found that these injures tend to not heal correctly, fawns tend to re-break their legs in rehab, and the tend to die from capture myopathy before the leg heals. Even if they do heal, these fawns typically end up habituated due to lots of handling, and then have to be euthanized anyway per state law. Large injuries generally also fall into this category. Calling local animal control, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, or police (depending on your county, different counties have different responders) to put the animal to sleep is sadly, unfortunately, the most humane thing to do.
I see a fawn directly next to a dead doe.
This is NOT normal. Call the Department of Wildlife Resources at 804-367-2679. We currently do not take fawns.
What do I do if I still have a question?
Call the Department of Wildlife Resources at 804-367-2679.
Why don’t you take fawns?
There are several reasons. We would love to do them but we have to be realistic and practical about the current circumstances.
1. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been recently detected in many counties that we serve.
CWD is an extremely contagious, fatal, long-lasting, and incurable disease that lasts a long time in the soil. It has already decimated deer populations in other parts of the United States. We are forbidden by law to take deer that are from infected areas otherwise we risk losing our permits. Also, there have been instances of people lying about where the fawn came from in order to get it help (thus potentially spreading the disease from one area to another with full knowledge they are doing so – which is counterproductive and doesn’t actually help anyone, human or deer!) so we cannot in good faith promote the moving of fawns locally. This is a bad situation all around, but if we care about the health of the ecosystem and preserving deer for future generations we unfortunately have to make tough choices. Some of our partners in Virginia, who are in “clean” areas and do rehab fawns, refuse to take fawns from our general area (even from uninfected counties) because of the outbreak.
2. Time, space, and financial restraints both for us and the rehab community.
Fawn rehab takes a lot of time, a lot of space, and a lot of resources. We never rehabbed fawns long-term because we have always lacked the facilities to do so — we formerly would take some fawns temporarily and send them to other rehabbers as soon as we could. However, in recent years the number of fawn rehabbers has dwindled and every year the entire state becomes at capacity very quickly and no more fawns can be admitted, mainly because of the sheer number of fawns that are kidnapped. If we had more funding we (and others) likely could start rehabbing fawns long-term but they are one of the most expensive animals to care for properly, in addition to having one of the poorest outcomes of survival for rehab (see below). We are not a fawn specialist facility and we are already bursting at the seams trying to take care of all the other species we do. Sadly, at this time, have to be selective of what species we will and won’t take because we don’t have the staff, volunteers, funding, and space to do deer in a way we feel is humane and appropriate.
3. White-tailed deer fawns do not do well in rehab.
As a whole, fawns have a very high mortality rate in rehab according to our colleagues that rehab them long-term. The main issue is capture myopathy, which is when animals reach a critical state of exhaustion from extreme exertion, struggle, or stress. Capture myopathy is often fatal, especially in hoofed animals like deer. This is why we advise people to not interfere with fawns if possible because even the act of picking up a fawn, driving it to a rehab center, and dropping it off can be enough stress to kill the fawn quickly even if the fawn is 100% clinically healthy.
Additionally, several studies have shown that white-tailed deer (our local species) have a very low survival rate after release from rehab. Wildlife biologists have studied what happens to rehabbed white-tailed deer once they are released and the rate of survival post-release is very low (or in some studies, zero). One study (Beringer et al. 2004) concluded that “[rehabbing] white-tailed deer does not result in the animal’s long-term survival and does not appear to be a humane alternative” and “rehabilitating fawns may exacerbate the spread of communicable diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease.” Some other deer species have higher rates of survival that are much more successful than white-tailed deer, but scientific consensus in the conservation community concludes that white-tailed deer rehabilitation is not a good use of time, resources, manpower, and does very little to help the deer population or improve the lives of individual deer both short and long-term. Development of further techniques may swing the pendulum the other way eventually and improve deer rehab chances, but currently this is the sad reality of what we are up against. That isn’t to say they don’t deserve rehabilitative care, but unfortunately we have to be realistic as to what the data shows.
This is why if there is any possible chance that mom is out there, we should give the chance — the survival rate with mom is much higher than it is in rehab despite all the dangers of the wild.