Recently some friends of mine encountered a fascinating natural phenomenon. After dark, they were searching their woodlands for a missing cat. Their flashlights reflected eerily in the eyes of an animal. Their first thought was that their pet had fallen victim to a predator. Instead, the glowing eyes belonged to a baby deer. The spotted fawn made no attempt to escape. They wisely backed away, hoping that the fawn’s mother was nearby.
The fawn was still hunkered down the next morning, with no mama doe in sight. The first assumption was that the young deer was abandoned. These compassionate people wisely contacted the Department of Natural Resources for instructions. They learned about a normal practice called “parking.”
Deer births typically occur May through July. Unlike humans, the mother deer only interacts with her offspring a couple of times a day. She nurses two to three times a day, around sunrise and sunset. The rest of the time she stays away from her baby, although she is usually nearby. During its first weeks of life, the fawn has no scent to attract predators. The mother does not want her own scent to attract dangerous attention to her baby. Even though fawns are so adorable, humans should leave them alone. (The photo of the parked fawn was taken by my cat-seeking friends.)
A second reason that people should let nature take its normal course is that very young baby deer have not developed an attachment to their mothers. They are likely to be attracted to any large moving object (like people) and may follow into unsafe areas. If the bonding process is disrupted, the fawn may be abandoned.
While mother deer usually select tall grasses or shrubby areas to park their babies, sometimes their judgement of safe areas can be questionable. Within a few days of its birth, the fawn will have developed the instinct to hide, and may flatten itself in an attempt to blend into its surroundings.
Do not move a found fawn. And DO NOT ATTEMPT to feed a fawn. Cow’s milk, infant formula, or goat’s milk can all cause diarrhea that may be fatal. Here is a link to a website that provides clear instructions on how to handle a found fawn: http://www.keeperofthewild.org/fawn_rescue.html. While the contact telephone numbers provided are for South Carolina only, the general information applies to any state.
Many thanks to Ann and Al for sharing this experience and their photograph with me! (The missing cat returned safely.)