RALEIGH, N.C. — With fawning season in full swing, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is once again reminding people not to approach, touch or remove any white-tailed deer fawns they encounter over the next few weeks.
From late April through June, white-tailed does across North Carolina are giving birth. Whitetails are a “hider” species, which means the female will hide her fawn in vegetation during the first two or three weeks of its life as she feeds. When left alone fawns have an excellent chance of survival. Dappled and lacking scent, they are well camouflaged in the wild and usually remain undetected by predators. Fawns are also well-equipped to protect themselves. By the time they are 5 days old, they can outrun a human. At 6 to 10 weeks of age, fawns can escape most predators.
“Each year, fawns are taken out of the wild by well-intentioned individuals who mistakenly assume they are orphaned or have been abandoned,” said Jon Shaw, the deer biologist for the Commission. “However, it is rare for a doe to abandon her fawn, although she will leave it for hours at a time, she returns periodically to nurse it.
“If you find a fawn, leave it where it is and check on it the following day. If it still there and is bleating loudly, appears cold, weak or thin, or is injured, it might be orphaned. However, do not take it out of the wild, but rather contact a local, permitted fawn rehabilitator.”
If a fawn has been removed from the wild, Shaw advises taking the fawn back to where it was found — but only if the fawn has been held for less than 48 hours, the maximum time when a doe usually will return for her fawn. After 48 hours, the fawn should not be returned to the wild but taken to a local, permitted fawn rehabilitator.
With the exception of trained wildlife rehabilitators, most people are ill-equipped to care for a fawn, so their misguided attempts to “save” an abandoned fawn typically do more harm than good, with the majority of captive fawns eventually dying.
Besides being biologically irresponsible to remove a fawn from the wild, it is also illegal. Only certified wildlife rehabilitators have permits to keep white-tailed deer in captivity.
Learn more about white-tailed deer in North Carolina, visit the Commission’s white-tailed deer page.