They may look lost or abandoned, but baby deer and other young wild animals should not be touched or moved.
“Every year, well-intentioned people try to rescue fawns and other young animals mistakenly thought to be orphaned, but these interventions do more harm than good,” said Ken Owens, conservation officer for the North Okanagan. “Mother deer, moose, 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.”
This is especially a problem in Kelowna, added Owens. 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. Pet owners are asked to be responsible for the actions of their animals, by keeping dogs on a leash, securely tied, or fenced when owners are not at home.
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.
- Remember that 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.
Taking a fawn into your care is against the law and potential fines start at $345 for unlawful possession of live wildlife. Last year, conservation officers dealt with several individuals who were charged after taking possession of live fawns.
“The fawns were not orphaned or injured but fawn-napped,” said Owens. “Every year, well-meaning people doom deer fawns to an unnatural life in confinement or kill them accidentally by rescuing them. It’s dangerous and unnecessary.”