Each year in late spring and early summer, deer throughout the United States give birth to their babies. Deer are very interesting animals and like most species they have some very interesting idiosyncrasies. For example, mother deer spend very little time with their young. To avoid attracting predators, moms will hide their babies in deep grass or brush and leave them alone for hours at a time while she forages for food. Shortly after birth, the momma deer will nudge the baby with its nose until the infant falls down. Once down, the baby sits without any movement. The baby will not get up on its own unless mom comes to get it. It is cited in the literature that baby deer are one of the very few animals in nature that do not emit any odor that can be detected by predators. Couple the ability to stay perfectly sill with the lack of any detection odor, and baby deer are very safe without mom hanging around. They can sit so still and remain so well hidden that most people could walk within a few inches of them without detecting them .When it’s time for baby to be fed, mom will never approach the exact spot where the baby is hiding, (preventing predator detection). Mom will survey the area and if she determines that the area is safe, she will give out with a barking sound that summons the baby to her. Once junior is fed, she will knock it down again and go about her way. This pattern will last for several weeks before the baby is finally allowed to tag along with the herd. On several occasions we have seen momma deer leave the baby for more than 24 hours at a time.
This natural instinct of “duck and hide” is effective for keeping baby deer out of harm’s way. It unfortunately subjects the animal to its own set of hazards. Because it stays so still and will not run when discovered, it becomes easy prey for tractors, mowers, dogs and humans.
When a hiding deer is run over by a motorized vehicle or farm equipment it will usually suffer major injury or death. Many deer will break or lose multiple legs in these type accidents and will need to be put down. Domestic dogs also cause a lot of damage to the baby deer. Because the deer will not run, dogs like to grab them by a leg and drag them around the pasture. This practice usually results in a three legged deer that can usually be saved and released. These deer need rescue. Most of the deer that end up at the rehabilitation center are the deer picked up by well intentioned people. They find the deer lying in the grass, no mother around and the deer doesn’t seem to be able to get up. Well, unless you can bark like mom, it’s not doing to get up. People who like wildlife will almost always pick these animals up, take them home and try to get them care. This is the truly humanitarian thing to do, but it’s not always in the best interest of the deer. The best action when you find a fawn is to back away and leave it alone. Continue to check on it from a distance. If the fawn has been abandoned by its mom, it will start crying out. Baby deer bleat like baby sheep. The more stress, the more they cry. If you have observed the baby for 12 – 24 hours and no mom showed up and the baby is crying, it probably needs rescue. Keep in mind that once a baby is picked up and moved, the possibility of ever reuniting it with mom is very unlikely.
If you do rescue a baby deer, get it to a licensed rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Director Hearts Afire Deer Rescue