The Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center, the Sequim-based wildlife rescue and rehabilitation nonprofit, has received more 25 reports over the past two weeks of well-meaning Clallam residents who either were considering taking young deer fawns from the wild or already had done so. In almost every instance, the people involved believed they were rescuing “orphaned” fawns that, in reality, still were under their mother’s care. Though the center successfully has reunited a number of these fawns with their mothers, the center reports that unnecessary human intervention has resulted in at least one fawn death and a number of potential cases of parental abandonment.
It is illegal for civilians to take deer fawns from the wild under Washington state law.
“Everyone thinks deer fawns are abandoned or orphaned when they see them all alone in the yard,” says Jaye Moore, the center’s founder and executive director. “What they don’t realize is that mother deer protect their fawns, who are generally too small and scentless to attract predators, by leaving them alone in a safe spot while they graze before returning hours later to retrieve them. The young deer fawns are often told to ‘pancake’, which basically means they play paralyzed and lay splayed out and motionless until Mom comes back and tells them otherwise. People see these fawns all by themselves and try to ‘help’ them — which scares Mom away and effectively orphans the fawns. Unless you see blood, a broken bone, or a deceased mom nearby, it’s always best to leave solitary deer fawns alone so that Mom feels safe enough to retrieve them.”
“We’ve seen some horrible stories the last two weeks,” says Matthew Randazzo, the president of the center. “One poor deer fawn was killed by a family that brought it inside and fed it cow’s milk because they didn’t believe it could survive in the rain. Another deer fawn was orphaned because a woman scared away its mom while trying to play with the fawn in her driveway. Before interfering with any deer fawn in the wild, please call the Raptor Center at 681-2283 to consult with us — for the good of the animal and for your own safety. You could end up killing the fawn, injuring yourself and facing legal consequences.”
The center encourages those interested to visit the “Deer Fawn 101” photo album at www.facebook.com/northwestraptorcenter to learn more.