Late May and June is the time of year that the Conservation Officer Service receives numerous calls from concerned citizens that they have found an orphaned deer and want to know what to do with it.
The answer is simple: Take it back to where you found it and leave it alone. Almost always the adorable fawn is not orphaned at all.
Baby deer are born with virtually no scent but the mother deer does have a scent that predators can track, therefore the best defense against predators for these newborn vulnerable prey species is to hide in the grass alone with the spotted camouflage of their coat.
This is nature’s way. The mother deer will intentionally wander off to feed with strict instructions to the fawn to stay put and not move. The doe will return at intervals to feed the fawn but it is not uncommon for the fawn to wait many hours for the mother to return.
Good intentioned humans often don’t understand this system and after observing the fawn for a short period of time scoop the fawn up and take it home to care for. Very quickly they realize that they have a long term problem on their hands and they call the Conservation Officer Service for advice on where to take the deer.
Our advice is almost always the same. It needs to be placed back where the mother can find it. The belief that a mother deer will not accept a fawn that smells of human scent is not true. Fawns have even been known to have been accepted by adopted mothers.
Picking up a fawn and bringing it home does a great disservice to the animal, even though the actions are well meant. The doe is now missing her fawn, the fawn is now at risk of dying and there is no facility in the Okanagan to provide the specialized care.
The best thing to do is to leave the fawn in place, the next best thing to do is to put it back and let the doe find it. The worst thing to do is to bring it home or take it to SPCA or to a government office.
– Bob Hamilton is a conservation officer from Penticton