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Orphaned Fawns, Pet Deer, and the Right Thing to Do
“Hey baby, come check this out,” my wife said from the back yard.
As I approached her, I saw a small spotted creature with huge ears. About the size of a medium-sized dog, but standing on spindly legs, I looked into the eyes of the fawn that stood around the property line.
“Hmm,” I said, “Little fawn. Cute boy.”
My wife, who always has to take in a stray and push past the free-puppy tail gaiters at Wal-Mart, looked at me with the same eyes as the fawn. “He looks lost! Can we keep him?”
I drank my coffee and went back to the kitchen, “it’s okay. He’s not lost, just walking around.”
He was heartbroken and demanded to know how he could tell with just a look.
Well, here it goes.
Identification of an orphan fawn
Whitetail deer, like those found in abundance throughout Mississippi, do fall and winter, resulting in thousands of cute little fawns being born from late April to mid-July. next year When born, these fawns will have a redder coat than their parents and are covered in hundreds of small white spots. These spots help the fawn to blend in with the myriad of wildflowers and weeds in bloom in the spring and summer when it is born. As an added protection from good mother nature, the fawns have no shipping that prevents predators from smelling them. As such, the mothers of these lactating shrews try to get as far away from their young as possible so as not to wipe out their own scent. By October, young fawns typically lose their spots and are now foraging rather than nursing, well on their way to adulthood.
With that in mind, if you see a spotted fawn in the spring and summer, chances are it’s not with its mother around. Most likely, the mother is hiding in a nearby bush while the children explore the world. Alternatively, the mother may have left the juvenile so she could go forage, as she is still eating for two.
One of the best signs to see if a fawn is orphaned and distressed is if it is dehydrated. A dehydrated baby deer is a deer that cannot nurse for some reason. Maybe the mother is dead, or maybe she is sick and not producing milk. Either way, these dehydrated fawns can be easily identified by the position of their ears. A dehydrated fawn will have its wide ears rolled back at the tips or, in later stages, will collapse and become unresponsive to stimulus. If a fawn has cute, narrow ears and walks, it’s probably not an orphan. let it be Mom will be very alert to her baby’s human scents and may want nothing to do with it if you try to play cuddle. Even worse, if you move the fawn away, the doe’s milk will start to dry up in as little as 24 hours.
As the old folks say, “Ears are straight, the fawn is cool. Ears are rolled up; he’s alone in the world.”
What to do if you find one?
So you have an orphan deer on your hands. Your baby is sick, has droopy ears and is just plain pathetic. You’ve watched the fawn for hours and it hasn’t moved away or a mother has come to care for it. For confirmation, you may even find a nursing doe killed by a car a few blocks away. What are you doing now?
The best and most correct answer is to find a local wildlife rehabilitation group that can take the animal. Although not advertised due to lack of funds, these unsung wildlife heroes are state/federally licensed wildlife rehabilitators, caretakers or veterinarians located throughout the state. A good resource to find one locally is MS Wild Life Rehab.org. If you fall short, call your local conservation office as soon as possible.
Until the animal can be picked up or taken to a rehabilitation facility, keep the animal warm and dry and do not attempt to give it any food other than water.
Can you keep it as a pet?
The simple answer is no. Now read this sentence again if you have questions. In Mississippi, it is illegal to own a deer as a pet. If you are pulled over for one, you face a minimum of a Class 3 felony, and could be looking at a fine of up to $1,000 (plus fees) and/or up to 6 months in jail. It is also illegal to import white-tailed deer into Mississippi. This is for the good of the animal.
Wild animals collected as pets are no longer wild, but they are never truly pets. Once the steps are taken along this path, the animal finds itself in a strange catch-22 situation. It can never be released into the wild because it has become so dependent on humans that it can never learn to properly care for itself. However, it cannot be vaccinated and cared for enough to be anything other than an easy target for passing poachers.
Recently, pet deer were banned in Arkansas. In neighboring Tennessee, it has long been illegal to house wild deer.
So remember all that when your doe-eyed wife calls you to the deck.
I need to make this woman a dog.
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