If you’re like our deer fencing company, you’ve heard that species of wildlife that abandon their young if they detect a human has touched it. This myth is false – partially. Some species of animals (mainly rodents, birds, and other wildlife) will abandon their young, but only if they feel there has been too much human contact – to the point of interference. That means that if you have to, you can touch young wildlife, but make sure no to overdo it or disturb their nesting areas.
When it comes to baby deer (or fawns), however, you should keep your distance and leave them where they are. In an article on Utah’s Wildlife website, Ron Stewart, a manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources, sheds some light:
Since deer and elk often use techniques to help their young avoid predators, it may be confusing when you find one that looks abandoned. “Often these strategies make it look like the adults have abandoned their young,” Stewart says. “Actually, they’re doing the best thing possible to protect their young.”
Mother deer often keep their newborn fawns hidden – sometimes a good distance away from their own bed site so that if a predator attacks them, the fawn still has a chance to stay hidden. Because of this, you may think you’ve found a fawn that is abandoned, but really, its mother is nearby.
If you’ve already handled a fawn, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife suggests you rub an old towel in the grass and then wipe the fawn down to help reduce your scent. Put on gloves, then return the fawn to the place you found it. If it’s within eight hours of when you removed it, the mother deer should resume her care for the fawn.
More on deer safety techniques
Fawns are born without a scent, so predators can’t detect them. They’re also born with a brown, spotted coat that, to an animal that sees in black and white, is the same color as grass and leaves. To keep the fawn scentless, the mother deer routinely consumes its fawn’s urine and droppings. If you handle a fawn, you could risk leaving a scent.
“If you get too close, the scent you leave could draw a predator to the animal,” Stewart says. “I’ve watched coyotes and other predators cross a path that someone just walked and immediately turn and follow their path.”
So to recap, unless a fawn is injured or needs other necessary help, don’t approach it. And definitely don’t touch it.