by D.A. Salazar, MG Class of 2009
One spring, while on the riding mower wrestling with an overgrown part of our lawn, my husband nearly ran over this little guy:
The mother didn’t appear to be anywhere nearby, and the baby did not seem to be injured or unwell. We already have a rather low opinion of the I.Q. of our local black-tailed deer (and more on that in another post…), but really, would a new mother just wander off without her kid?
Well, yes — er, no…ummm…
For a new mother doe, seclusion and safety for herself and her young are her top priorities. Just prior to giving birth, she’ll seek a private place away from other deer to avoid detection by potential predators; this could be a quiet place in the woods, a hidden spot in the brush — or an overgrown patch of your lawn. The fawn will stay thus hidden for the first few weeks of its life. Its mother will leave the baby on its own for several hours a day while she goes off to feed, and will return to nurse; mama may even choose a resting place a considerable distance from her young. The doe will also consume the fawn’s urine and droppings to help keep the fawn’s bed site scent-free (and also provide herself valuable nutrition). All of these actions are meant to reduce the risks of predators finding her fawn.
While on its own, the fawn will remain huddled up and motionless in its bed site; the markings of young deer allow for excellent camouflage among our native grasses, shrubs and trees. (Although newborn fawns can walk almost immediately, they can not keep up with adults, and are safer lying low while mother is away.)
So what to do if you find a baby deer in your lawn? or huddled under the firs? or hidden in a tangle of hawthorn and blackberries? Resist temptation and step away.
According to our friends at Wolf Hollow Wildlife Center, birthing season for deer in the San Juan Islands is generally early May, so by now we should be seeing the little ones around. Both Wolf Hollow and the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife offer the same advice: Leave the baby alone. Do Not Disturb. Keep your stinky human hands to yourself. The mother will not be too far off, and will return to her baby as soon as you skedaddle.
(There is the rare exception: If the fawn appears weak or injured, or is wandering around and mewling, and its mother does not return after eight hours, it may be orphaned. In which case, call Wolf Hollow or your regional WDFW office.)
So, as tempting as it may be to fawn over a fawn that is seemingly left alone, in truth, the kid is all right, safe and sound in its little hidey-hole.
Guess mama knows what she’s doing, after all.
For more information, please visit our sources: Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife: Living with Wildlife, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
B&W photos c. D.A. Salazar
Color photo courtesy WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
Managing Bambi is a new, continuing series at The Perennial Post. Submit your deer-related anecdotes using our Contact Page (choose “Managing Bambi” for the subject line), and we’ll include your successes, failures and funny stories in future posts!