Abandoned fawns are rarely orphans

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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For state fish and wildlife police officer Isabel Van Vladricken and her coworkers, it’s deer season — the other deer season.

Early June is the peak of blacktail fawn birthing season. Fawns are born from late May through the end of June.

And for Van Vladricken, this month is when the Department of Fish and Wildlife gets lots of calls regarding “orphaned’’ fawns.

“People pick up fawns because they assume they are orphaned,’’ said Van Vladricken. “Nine times out of 10 that isn’t true at this time of year.’’

Female deer often give birth at night in areas, such as people’s front yards, which seem safe at night, but not so in daylight, she said.

For about the first week, fawns will not run when approached. They will lie still, even permitting handling with little resistance. From about day seven on, fawns will try to run away when approached. At one month, fawns will venture out to browse with their mothers.

“Ninety-nine percent of fawn calls do not involve orphans,’’ Van Vladricken said. “Generally, if there is no dead doe in the area or on nearby roads the fawn is not an orphan and needs to be left alone. The mother may be nearby and will return to take care of the fawn once people leave.’’

Just because the mother deer does not appear soon, that does not mean the fawn is abandoned.

“Often, does will not return to their fawns until well after dark,’’ she said. “It may take a good 24 hours for a doe to feel safe enough to return to her fawn. “If a mother were to return to her fawn prematurely, she might risk leading a predator directly to her fawn.’’

Fawns will imprint on humans very quickly, which is not good for the deer.

“Do not touch the fawn,’’ Van Vladricken said. “This could cause the mother to reject it. If the fawn has been handled, wipe it off with a clean towel rubbed with dirt, put on a clean pair of gloves and return the fawn to the site or origin.’’

If the fawn wanders into a garage, gently coax it to a quiet, nearby site while wearing gloves.

“Coyotes, dogs, cats, raccoons and construction are not reasons for fawn removal,’’ she said. “These are issues that deer must encounter on a daily basis.’’