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If you find a deer fawn alone in the woods, leave it there. Here's why

Human handling and disturbance of fawns can cause a doe to shy away or even desert her offspring.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — If you find a deer fawn alone in the woods, leave it there. That's the message the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) is trying to get out to residents.

Each spring and summer, SCDNR says it gets many calls from people who have discovered these “lost” deer. Officials say its mother has not abandoned it; she is probably nearby. 

Many people who come upon a solitary spotted fawn in the woods or along a roadway mistakenly assume the animal has been deserted by its mother and want to take the apparently helpless creature home to care for it. SCDNR says young fawns like this have not been abandoned and are still in the care of a doe.

SCDNR says it’s part of nature's plan for a doe deer to leave her fawn or fawns alone for their first few weeks of life. The reason for this unusual maternal action is that the fawn at this age is better protected away from the doe. The presence of the doe nearby would attract predators because the doe lacks the protective coloration of the fawn, and the older and larger doe has a much stronger odor.

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A fawn that appears abandoned is merely awaiting a visit from its mother. A doe, after brief periods of feeding and grooming her fawn, will spend much of her day feeding and resting somewhat removed from her young. The fawn ordinarily stays bedded down as if sleeping, but will occasionally move short distances to new bedding sites.

The apparently “helpless” deer fawns born during April, May and June in South Carolina will begin daily movements with their mothers in about three or four weeks. 

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Human handling and disturbance of fawns can cause a doe to shy away or even desert her offspring. Also, a bleating response by the fawn can summon nearby predators.

Removing a fawn from the forest is also illegal because the animal is being taken outside the legal season for taking deer, which is the hunting season.

People often ask SCDNR if it needs deer fawns for its research projects. Although, actively engaged in deer research, SCDNR says current studies do not involve captive animals.

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