How Deer Keep their Fawns Safe from Predators: Why You Should Never Handle a Fawn

The black-tailed deer pictured above was grazing with another doe when I took her picture. It’s the beginning of July and most does will have given birth by now. These two had likely left their fawns hiding away in the bush. This strategy enhances their likelihood of survival. Peter Wohlleben explains,

In the first few weeks of life, fawns are left lying alone in the undergrowth or tall grass, because this is safest for both mother and fawn. A doe with a fawn moves slowly because she has to keep waiting for the youngster. Often the fawn has not yet experienced how serious life can be and dawdles behind mom – an ideal target for wolves or lynx. That’s why mother deer prefer to separate themselves from their little darlings for the first three to four weeks and leave them in a safe space. It is almost impossible to sniff out a fawn. Because they smell of hardly anything at all, their scent doesn’t alert predators to their presence. The doe comes by for a quick visit every once in a while to nurse her fawn, and then she takes off again right away. That gives her more time to feed on nutritious buds and new shoots instead of having to worry about and watch out for the little one all the time.

This is why you should never move or touch a fawn. Well-meaning people pick up “abandoned” fawns all the time. Moving a fawn increases the chance that the mother will not find it. It also introduces scent on the fawn which jeopardizes its ability to hide from predators. It is not true, however, that a doe will abandon her fawn if it is touched. Keep fawns safe by keeping your distance. If you see a fawn that is injured or standing next to a dead doe, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center.


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