First Fawn of 2023 — Reunited!

First Fawn of 2023 — Reunited!

Every spring WildCare admits a number of animals, usually fawns and baby jackrabbits, that have been “kidnapped” by well-meaning people who found them alone and assumed they needed help. In fact, one in five of the fawns brought to WildCare in 2022 were healthy and were promptly returned to their mothers’ care.

The family that found this fawn had good reason to suspect she needed help... they spotted her sitting quietly under their car in the parking area of their condominium complex! They had never seen a deer in the area, so they assumed that the baby must be abandoned to be in such an odd location. They picked her up and brought her to WildCare's Wildlife Hospital.

WildCare’s first job when we admit a fawn is to determine if the baby actually needs our care...

In the video below, watch our Veterinarian examine this fawn (the room is kept dark and the team whispers to reduce the baby's stress.)

Then scroll down to see the AMAZING reunite with her mother, and learn how to determine if a fawn actually needs rescue!

Reunited and It Feels So Good

After confirming that this fawn has the bright eyes and full belly of a healthy baby, WildCare's Director of Animal Care, Melanie Piazza volunteered to bring her back. Before leaving the fawn, we needed to confirm the location where she was found, and ideally also get confirmation of the mother deer's presence.

When she arrived at the site, Melanie could see why the people who had found the fawn were so surprised to see her. Only because she recognizes wildlife habitat in our urban/suburban county did Melanie know that the startlingly steep the hillside behind the condo complex was likely where the fawn's mother lived. Indeed, when Melanie scrambled halfway down the hill, she spotted a female deer, who leaped away as soon as she saw her.

There was no way to carry the fawn in a carrier down the almost-vertical hillside ( see photo), and Melanie needed the mother deer to see and smell her fawn so she wouldn't run away again. She tucked the young deer under her arm and carefully made her way down the slope.

Suddenly she heard snorting and stomping... the mother deer had scented her baby, and she wanted her back!

In the video below, you can see Melanie's attempts to get the wobbly-legged fawn to return to her mother. Because she's so young, the fawn's eyesight isn't good enough to see her mother down the hill, so she keeps turning back to the OTHER large, warm mammal with long legs in the vicinity, Melanie! It took several attempts, and some difficult hiking down the hill to bring the fawn closer to the mother deer, for the little fawn to finally see her way back to where she belonged.

As you'll see in the video, once she's had a chance to sniff her baby, the mother deer gives a couple of extra stomps in Melanie's direction to make sure the "predator" doesn't pursue the fawn, before she wheels away and escorts the little one back to safety.

By the way, it's a myth that a mother wild animal of any species will reject her baby if there is human scent on her! WildCare successfully reunites baby animals of many species, including birds. Most wild animals are excellent moms, and, while the mother deer likely noticed that her baby smelled funny, she wouldn't reject her because of it.

Melanie fought her way back up the hill and got her binoculars from her car. With careful searching, she finally spotted the mother and baby deer making their way through the trees, the mother stopping periodically to lick her little one. Melanie was thrilled to confirm that all was well with this little fawn.

Scroll down to learn the Five Cs-- the best way to determine if a baby wild animal needs rescue!

How do you know if a wild animal needs your help? The Five Cs!

Healthy fawn in the grass. Photo by Susan Sasso

Jackrabbits and deer will leave their babies for up to 12 hours. A fawn or leveret (baby hare) is likely not orphaned if found still and quiet in the grass. Photo by Susan Sasso

The first things to look for if you think a wild animal of any age needs rescue are the Five Cs. If an animal demonstrates any of these five symptoms, it is an emergency and he needs immediate help:

1. Is he Crying?

2. Is he Cold?

3. Is he Coming toward you (approaching people)?

4. Is he Covered in fluff (for baby birds) or Covered with blood or insects?

5. Has he been Caught by a cat or a dog?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, immediately call WildCare’s Hotline at 415-456-7283 for assistance and advice.

However, especially in the case of fawns, not seeing any of the Five Cs may indicate the animal does not actually need to be rescued! A fawn’s primary defense mechanism is to stay completely still and quiet, nestled into whatever spot his mother placed him while she went off to forage. People often mistake this defensive behavior for injury, weakness or illness. But it isn’t. A still, quiet fawn is a healthy fawn.

Mother deer know that their presence near their babies alerts predators to the fawns’ existence, which puts them at risk. In order to keep her young safe, a doe will leave her fawn in a secluded area, often for as long as 12 hours, distracting predators away from her baby while she forages for food.

Fawns’ camouflage and their ability to stay still keep them safe from predators while their mother is away. When approached by a perceived predator (humans, pets, or wildlife) a fawn’s instinctual response is to lay very low and not move at all. People often mistake this defensive behavior for injury, weakness or illness, but in fact it is healthy behavior for a fawn.

You should be worried if you see a fawn acting contrary to this normal behavior. If a fawn is up and walking around by himself, or is crying, call WildCare immediately at 415-456-SAVE (7283).

Other wildlife babies, however, will always need help if you find them on the ground or otherwise away from their mothers.

Here are a few scenarios, and please check out our Wildlife Rescue FAQ for additional information.

Any baby bird that is naked or covered in downy fluff needs immediate care.
Baby birds at this young age are not yet able to regulate their own body temperature, so they always need help.

Any baby mammal with eyes still closed needs immediate care.
Squirrels, raccoons, skunks and opossums are all mammals whose babies are born helpless, with eyes and ears tightly sealed. If you find a baby that can't open her eyes, assume she needs help.

Any duckling or gosling, or turkey or quail chick that is completely alone (always look for mom and siblings) needs immediate care.
These baby animals grow up in groups and won't survive on their own. Always rescue a lone duckling.

Take the Five Cs Quiz!

The Five Cs are very obvious symptoms that indicate an animal needs help. But sometimes it’s not as clear whether your intervention would be in the animal’s best interest.

Take a look at some actual scenarios from WildCare’s records and see how you would respond:

Scenario 1: A tiny fawn appears one morning on your front porch. She’s sitting completely still and isn’t making a sound. The baby isn’t very well hidden, and there’s no sign of the mother deer. Does she need help?

Answer: No! That baby is fine and does not need rescue. Deer, like jackrabbits, will leave their young alone for up to twelve hours at a time while they forage. The babies know to stay still and quiet, tucked into the spot where their mother left them. Sometimes the mother deer makes a poor choice as to where her baby should spend the daylight hours, but she is probably nearby, and worried that a predator (you!) has discovered her fawn. Leave the fawn alone by removing yourself completely from the scene and eventually Mom will come back to retrieve her baby.

Scenario 2: Last night’s wind left a lot of debris in the park where you walk your dog. Your foot dislodges a leaf and underneath you find a small fluff-covered bird. He’s alive, but his little belly is cool to the touch. Does he need help?

Answer: Yes! That baby definitely needs to come to WildCare. If a baby is cool or cold, or if he’s a baby bird that is still fluff-covered, he’s in trouble and needs help immediately.

Scenario 3: The mockingbird hops around the yard with little trouble, but no matter how long you watch him, he doesn’t attempt to fly. There are other birds around, but you’re worried about neighborhood cats. Does he need help?

Answer: No! That baby is a fledgling, and hopping around without flying is an important part of his maturation process. A fledgling songbird will look like an adult bird, except his tail feathers will be shorter (stubby-looking) and he may have a little baby fluff still on his head. While neighborhood cats are a real hazard to birds of all ages (WildCare encourages cat owners to keep their pets indoors, especially during wildlife baby season), a fledgling bird’s parents are on the alert for dangers, and they are actively directing their young one to safety.

They will also continue to feed him. Give fledglings their best chance at success by keeping people and pets away from them during this important part of their development.

How did you do with these scenarios? For more extensive information to help you determine if a wild animal needs rescue, click to read our Wildlife Rescue FAQ!


Donate today to help us provide care for injured and orphaned fawns!

When a fawn comes to the Wildlife Hospital, she may need diagnostic tests like radiographs (x-rays) or blood work to make sure she’s healthy. She’ll certainly need immediate warmth and hydration until she can go into Foster Care with Fawn Rescue.

Your donation of any amount makes care for these wonderful spotted babies possible!

Click here to help us to provide urgent care for our orphaned fawns!