Not All Seemingly Abandoned Fawns Are Lost

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a fawn waits for its mother
a fawn waits for its mother

Spring has sprung on the north coast, and for many animals, this is baby season– deer being one of them.  Ian Keith and Kiana Hargreaves, human-wildlife conflict biologists for California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, say this time of year, many people call to report lost baby deer, known as “fawns.”

“You know, a mother can stash a fawn for up to 8 to 10 hours and be out foraging. She’s not necessarily just abandoning her fawn. She’s hiding it somewhere that she will come back to,” begins Ian. “And so right around late spring, we start getting people who show up at our office or show up at the forest service office saying, ‘I found this fawn in the woods it was abandoned,’ and at that point, mother has moved on, and they’ve essentially kidnapped a fawn.”

When in doubt, call the department of fish and wildlife but don’t touch or move the animal…

“Again, most of the time the mom is right around there,” she adds.

Even on your own property.

“It’s actually really like an exciting thing for people to find in a small fawn on their property,” Kiana continues, “and their predator avoidance is literally to sit as still as possible. So that’s why people can walk up to them. A lot of people will also call us for fawns, thinking that they’re injured because they can like, ‘well, I walked up next to it and started petting it and it didn’t move. So it has to be injured,’ and in those circumstances, you know, that animal, it’s the whole defense is to be as still as possible not to move.  They don’t make noise because that can attract predators. So if you are ever in doubt and you think maybe it could be abandoned, leave it where it is.”

Kiana says if you want to help fawns – slow down while driving. While most fawns that seem abandoned are simply waiting for their mothers, sometimes wild animals really are orphaned, usually along roadways. “It does mainly revolve around highways and vehicle collisions with the adults,” Kiana says. “So just being able to be a little more aware, slow down a little bit. You know, all those general things are really, really great ways to help wildlife.