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How to Help Baby Deer

I Accidentally Kidnapped a Baby Deer

A fawn, or baby deer, who is alone has not necessarily been abandoned. Mother deer don’t want to attract predators to their baby, so she mostly leaves them on their own, hidden and camouflaged. Mom will come back a few times a day to feed or move her baby. Feeding may only take 2-3 minutes, so unless you’re watching constantly you will probably miss it! It is a normal behaviour for baby deer to spend their time laying quietly in various hiding spots until 3-4 weeks of age when they start to accompany their mother. Unfortunately, this can give people the impression that the fawn has been orphaned and they may have mistakenly taken the baby away before speaking to a wildlife rehabilitator.

Reuniting the deer with their mother

If you have moved a fawn that was not showing signs of injury or distress, return the baby as soon as possible, as close as possible to where they were found. Lactating mothers may stay in the area for as long as 72 hours looking for their young. White-tailed deer do very poorly in captivity – their best bet at survival is in the wild with their mom.

Consult a wildlife rehabilitator before returning fawns who have already been fed by people, as incorrect foods or amounts can cause digestive problems that may necessitate care from a rehabilitator. Otherwise, babies who appear healthy and have been found within 48 hours should be placed back where found and then checked on 24 hours later to see if the mother has come to move her fawn to a new location.

Deer are sensitive to foreign scents on their young, so direct handling of fawns who are not in need of rehabilitation should always be avoided. If a fawn has been directly handled, before returning them, rub a clean towel vigorously in the dirt and grass and then gently rub the towel all over the baby to minimize human scent. Return the baby (wearing garden gloves that have been rubbed in grass when direct handling is necessary) to where they were found.

Getting fawns to stay put while waiting for their mother

To prevent the fawn from following you, place them facing away from the direction in which you plan to leave so they cannot watch you.

If the fawn does not lay down, tap the baby on the back quickly and firmly once or twice between the shoulder blades. This mimics how the mother taps the fawn with her nose to tell her baby to stay put and wait until she comes back.

Leave the area quickly and do not linger. Check back 24 hours later to see if the mother has come to move her fawn to a new location. If the baby is still in the same spot after 24 hours, or is wandering around constantly vocalizing, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.