What To Do If You Find an Orphan Deer

posted in: Mammals | 0


whitetail deer fawn
a whitetail deer fawn


While in the woods, you stumble onto a helpless whitetail deer fawn, all alone.

What do you do? Should you scoop it up and rush it home? Should you feed it? Is it ok to approach it and take pictures of the family with it? In each of these cases, the answer should be a clear “NO”.

Each spring, woodland explorers encounter whitetail deer fawns and other young animals. With good intentions, inexperienced enthusiasts sometimes capture and remove these animals from their native habitats, which almost always does harm to the animal.

In reality, abandonment of newborn deer or other wildlife rarely happens. Usually the mother has left the young to forage and will return later to take care of it.

Across the USA, State Fish and Game departments urge people who find young deer and other animals to leave them alone. In addition to potentially harming a fawn, State and federal laws forbid possession of game and many nongame animals, so adopting newborn wildlife is usually illegal.

whitetail deer doe
a whitetail deer doe

Whitetail deer are a “hider” species; meaning the female will hide young fawns in vegetation while the mother is away to feed. Young whitetail fawns are camouflaged and usually remain undetected by predators.

Does return to their fawn(s) several times a day to nurse and clean, staying only a few minutes each time before leaving again to feed. A human may never see the doe and think the fawn needs help or food.

The best solution is to leave the young animals alone. If children bring home an “orphan” whitetail deer fawn, immediately return it to the exact spot where it was found.

In rare situations when a fawn or other newborn is found and the mother is known to be dead, most agencies advise outdoor enthusiasts to contact the nearest game warden, biologist or regional office, but do not attempt to capture and care for animals.

The whitetail deer is found throughout much of North America. Adults are brown to gray; varying seasonally. Whitetail deer are recognizable by their 6 to 12-inch tail which stands straight up when they are startled.

Adult Whitetail deer are 4 to 6 feet long and stand 2 to 3 feet tall. Males weigh 100 – 300 pounds; females weigh 85 – 130 pounds.

whitetail deer fawn photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service