Spring has officially sprung bringing lots of new wildlife babies. Sometimes confusion arises around animals that may seem abandoned, but are waiting for parents to return. People are often tempted to rescue young wildlife, not realizing that the parents are likely returning. Wild animals do not have on-call babysitting services and may need to leave their babies alone for short periods of time to search for food. For example, deer sometimes only return to their young 2-3 times a day to feed them. Baby fawns are easily noticed by people how may be concerned that it is abandoned, but the mother will not return if humans are around, so leave it alone unless you are sure that it has been left or it is in distress. Also, deer are easily frightened and can even die of fright, so limiting stress and disruption is important.
Fawns have very specialized diets and should not be fed under any circumstances, except by a wildlife expert. If a fawn has clearly lost its mother, is sick or injured, or needs help in any way, please contact PWRC, 204-510-1855 for assistance. Deer mothers have a natural instinct to care for an infant, especially if they have lost one, and readily adopt orphaned fawns. If a baby fawn can be brought to a group of deer in a nearby area, the chances that it will be adopted are relatively good. If a deer mother is looking for a baby to care for, a fawn could begin nursing within minutes. Although the PWRC is not able to rehabilitate fawns, they have been successfully fostered through other programs.
The Medicine River Wildlife Centre in Red Deer, Alberta has one of the only deer fostering programs in North America and they provide some information and tips on fostering fawns. It is important to be sure that the fawn is in good health, is not dehydrated, and has not spent excessive time with humans. Using a “fawn distress call,” normally used by hunters, will attract mothers in the area that are looking for babies. If no mother appears within a few minutes of the distress call, another location is tried, ideally near open fields near forested areas where deer would live. It also helps to mark the fawn with a tag or marker so that if a foster attempt is unsuccessful, the fawn can be identified. This motherly instinct is very special, but not unique to deer. The Medicine River Wildlife Centre has successfully fostered birds of prey, coyotes, foxes, and moose, demonstrating the natural instinct of wildlife to survive and the difference that a little bit of help can make.
*Article originally printed in Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre newsletter.
For more information or to become a member and subscribe to the newsletter, please visit the PWRC website: http://pwildlife.ca/.