In Ohio, one of the most well-known species of wildlife is the white-tailed deer, sometimes simply called the whitetail. It is often found in parks and wildlife areas, as well as in the backyards of rural and suburban Ohio residents. Sometimes, deer will even be spotted further into the city.
A female deer, or doe, will typically produce offspring in the summer months of May, June, or July. Baby deer are called fawns, and the first time a doe gives birth, it is usually to only one fawn, but each year after, a doe can produce two or three fawns in a single litter.
Female deer that frequent urban areas may place their fawns around homes or in backyards and gardens. Anywhere that seems safe for their babies presents an ideal spot for secluding their offspring. Fawns are able to stand shortly after birth and will begin following their mothers and moving around their habitat at four weeks old, but tend to remain hidden as protection.
Does leave their babies alone for long periods of time, but return several times a day to nurse them. By staying away, the mother deer is protecting her fawn from predators by trying to keep her scent away from it. Fawns are born nearly scentless, and have spots on their coats for camouflage. As fawns get older, it is common to see them playing and moving around without their mothers. At two months old, a fawn is able to forage for itself and is completely weaned from its mother’s milk.
To help prevent baby wildlife from becoming orphans, always keep your pets under control and monitored when they are outdoors, especially during the spring and summer months when offspring is born and raised.
If you find a fawn, follow the following simple guidelines from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife:
- Leave the deer alone if it seems healthy. If the fawn is not injured or in distress, the mother is most likely nearby, but keeping a distance to protect it. Leave the area and do not linger or repeatedly check on the fawn, or you may inadvertently attract predators to the fawn’s location.
- Move the fawn to a safer location if it is in a dangerous location, such as on the road. It is a myth that a fawn with human scent on it will be rejected by the doe, but you should limit touching the fawn regardless.
- After you move the fawn, it may attempt to follow you when you try to leave. To avoid this, face it away from the direction in which you plan to leave, and tap the fawn once or twice between its shoulder blades. This action mimics how a doe communicates with a fawn as if to say, “Stay here and wait until I come back.” After doing this, quickly leave the area. The fawn may wander a little bit but if you continue to move away, it should stop and lie down. If possible, you may monitor from a distance with binoculars, but be sure you are not close enough for it to know you are there.
- Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator if you find a doe that has been struck by a car and a fawn waiting beside her or nearby, or if you find a fawn that appears to be sick, cold, weak, injured, or covered in parasites. A list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be found at Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division’s website.
- NEVER keep a fawn as a pet! Deer are wild animals meant to live in the wild, and they can be active, independent, and can become dangerous and destructive in captivity. Raising a wild animal in captivity is also illegal unless you have a permit to do so. Even if you have good intentions in taking a fawn home, doing so can cause harm to both you and the animal.
With some know-how and careful guidance, you can help keep wildlife safe and healthy. –Kelsey Hardin
Kelsey Hardin is a crazy cat lady and graduate of the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. Living back in Columbus where she grew up, she spends her spare time writing, cuddling cats, crafting, spending time with friends, and catching local concerts and theatre shows.
Photo credit: Paul Brennan