Monday, May 25, 2009
We saw a doe and her fawn in the meadow behind our house yesterday, here in Bodega Bay. The grasses were so tall, I couldn’t quite see the baby at first. I only saw the mother and noticed that something appeared to be stirring beside her. Then sure enough, the winds blew the vegetation in such a way to reveal a tiny replica of the doe. I saw the little fawn take a few steps alongside its mother, then it shook its head and wiggled its ears. The adults are petite to begin with, so this fawn was really small.
After a little while, the mother started to walk away and the baby disappeared into the tall grass. The doe looked back a few times but continued making her way across the meadow.
A well-intentioned neighbor observed all this and next thing we knew, he was out in that field, scooping up the baby in his arms. He said he “was certain the mother was not coming back” even though she’d only been gone about fifteen minutes.
I explained that this was normal behavior and that he should put the fawn back down in the grass where its mother had left it. A young fawn cannot keep up with its mother while she feeds. Therefore, she has it lie still in the grass or the woods, sometimes up to six hours, until she comes back.
My neighbor looked doubtful, so I called the Wildlife Fawn Rescue of Sonoma County to run it by them. They confirmed that everything we witnessed was absolutely normal behavior and we should not interfere. My neighbor expressed concern that one of our local bobcats had been in that same meadow earlier in the day, but the Fawn Rescue counselor said it’s all part of nature. Fawns don’t have a scent yet and they camouflage well, so they have some protection.
I found out that every year, Wildlife Fawn Rescue takes in about 100 orphaned fawns. Many are brought in by well-meaning but misguided humans trying to save “abandoned” babies. If they are put back where they were found within up to 8 hours, there’s a good chance the mother will return. But after that time, Fawn Rescue needs to take over. They also care for fawns who are genuinely orphaned, usually when their mother is hit by a car, caught in a fence, or mauled by a dog.
If a fawn has been wandering around, crying, or has been continuously seen in one area for more than eight hours, or appears injured, please call Wildlife Fawn Rescue at 707-931-4550. They’ll ask a series of questions over the phone to determine if a volunteer should come pick up the fawn and take it to one of their rehabilitation facilities.
As an aside, I noticed Fawn Rescue says these are black-tailed deer, but other websites say they are the closely related California coast mule deer.
I did not take a photo of the fawn we saw, instead I opted to post a public domain image from the Web. After our neighbor picked the little guy up, I did not want to further traumatize it by approaching it with a camera. The human touch, voice, and odors are stressors to wildlife.
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