Don’t touch that fawn

White-tail deer will soon start scouting the fields and forests for hiding places to give birth to their fawns this spring.

After giving birth, the doe leaves the fawn lying on the ground and continues foraging for the crucial calories she needs to nurse. The doe returns to the fawn several times a day to nurse and clean it, staying only a few minutes each time before leaving again to seek food.

Every year, people come across fawns lying in fields or woods and think the mother has abandon it, but the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is appealing to the public to leave the fawns be. Whitetails are a “hider” species, which means the female will hide her fawn in vegetation during the first two or three weeks of its life while she ventures out to forage.

Fawns are not as helpless as they might appear. By the time a deer is five days old, already it can outrun a human. At three to six weeks of age, fawns can escape most predators. Typically, fawns are functionally weaned by about 10 weeks and are eating vegetation and other browse, although they may continue to nurse for another four to six months.

“Unless a fawn is in imminent danger — for example, being attacked by dogs or injured in a tractor mowing accident — the best decision always is to leave it alone,” according to a public service announcement issued by the Wildlife Commission. “If you are concerned about the fawn, leave the area and check on the fawn the next day. Do not remain in the area.”

If a fawn is in the exact location when you check on it the following day and bleating loudly, or if a fawn is lying beside a dead doe, possibly on the side of a highway, call the Wildlife Resources Commission at 919.707.0040.

It is illegal to take a fawn from the wild. Only fawn rehabilitators with a permit from the Commission may keep white-tailed fawns in captivity for eventual release.

“With the exception of trained wildlife rehabilitators, most people are ill-equipped to care for a fawn,” according to the Wildlife Commission. “Attempts to ‘save’ an abandoned fawn typically do more harm than good. A fawn’s best chance of survival is to remain in the wild.”

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