May 27, 2012

Find a baby deer? Leave it alone, experts say

Yep, baby deer are pretty darn cute. Nope, you can’t have one.

Yep, baby deer are pretty darn cute. Nope, you can’t have one.

That’s the message the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism wants to get out during fawning season, which is happening now.

Good-intentioned people who happen across fawns in their yards, at parks and in fields sometimes “rescue” them, thinking they’ve been abandoned. But doing so is not a good idea, said district biologist Jeff Rue, who works out of El Dorado.

Plus, it’s illegal. Possessing wildlife without a permit is a class C misdemeanor punishable upon first offense by up to a month in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Rue said he took five calls Wednesday from people who had picked up fawns, believing them to be left behind by their mothers.

“When does give birth, it’s a behavior of the fawn to lie still and not move so they don’t attract predators. Fawns have two things going for them: They give off very little scent and they lie still. It’s a natural behavior that’s wired into them. The mother is typically not very far away.”

The fawn and doe split up, except for feedings, to keep predators such as coyotes, foxes and bobcats away.

The best thing people can do, Rue said, is “leave them alone. They are wild animals. This is their natural behavior. A lot of wild animals have been displaced because of people’s perceived good intentions.”

When people call and ask what to do with found fawns, state biologists tell them to take the fawns back to where they found them and “let nature take care of business,” Rue said.

Maj. Mark Rankin, with Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s law enforcement division in Pratt, said deer quickly become dangerous.

“When they’re fawns, they are small, and they’re cute,” he said. “But they’re relatively hard to take care of, and if you imprint them on humans” for an extended period, they’re difficult to return to the wild.

In addition, he said, “there’s a large number of diseases and parasites that wild animals have that can be transmitted to humans, particularly children.”

Deer have “big sharp hooves,” Rankin said, “and kick like most four-legged animals.”

He recalled that one officer was injured when picking up a deer that a woman had adopted when it was a baby. After it grew to full size, the woman no longer wanted it and asked the wildlife department to pick it up.

The deer had grown accustomed to its surroundings and kicked the officer, damaging his hand.

Echoing Rue, Rankin said fawns rarely are indeed abandoned. Their mothers “bed down” fawns and go off to feed.

“Like all little animals, like kids, they sometimes get up and wander. Because they’re curious.”

Fawns typically stay with their mothers until the next spring, when does give birth again. However, their chances of surviving on their own are good after four months, Rue said. When fawns become young deer, their spots disappear.

The department has had to pick up adopted deer “a number of times” from people’s homes, Rankin said.

“It’s a very unpleasant experience because people are emotionally attached,” he said. “Every year, we deal with several instances of it.”

Although Rue said he understands people mean well, “the does can take care of those fawns better than any human being ever could.”

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