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Keeping a Long-Distance Relationship With Wildlife

Spring is the time for new life. But, what should you do when you see a fawn all alone in your backyard or forest? It may seem surprising, but the best thing to do is leave it alone. Every spring the DNR receives numerous calls on “abandoned” fawns that need rescuing. It is easy for us as humans to sympathize with a newborn animal that is all alone. But try not to think anthropomorphically. The white-tailed deer is equipped with adaptations that will help them survive, even while laying solo in the woods.

White-tailed deer fawns are born without scent; this keeps them from being detected while alone without their mother there to protect them. Fawns are also born with spots that provide camouflage. These adaptations tuck them into the forest perfectly so predators don’t spot them. Mothers remember their location and come back frequently to nurse.

“But what if I have watched it for over 24 hours and the mother seemed to have abandoned it?”

Often, after humans hang around an area for too long, the mother distances herself for her own safety. So, you may be the cause of your own dilemma! A doe can smell very well and are apprehensive to return to their young if human scent in the area.

Another factor to consider that since May 2015, Chronic Wasting Disease has been confirmed in this area. CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects cervids (deer, elk, moose) by misfolded proteins called prions attacking the central nervous system of the animal creating lesions in the body, eventually resulting in death. It is spread by animal-to-animal contact through saliva, urine, feces, and blood.

For this reason, rehabilitation of sick deer and “abandoned” fawns is prohibited in the CWD zones. Taking an unhealthy deer out of its environment and introducing it into a population of captive or otherwise healthy deer is a potential for disaster. Much is still to be learned about this disease, but it is known to spread fast and is fatal.

Saving a stranded fawn can be done with the best intentions, but these restrictions are put in place to ensure the safety of the white-tailed deer population as a whole. Local rehabilitation rescues, as well as the DNR, can’t take fawns that have been rescued for any reason in our county, and are put down when brought in.

White-tailed deer have adapted to grow and thrive in Michigan- trust their survival skills! They evolved to be equipped with the right biological tools to survive on their own. Wild animals get along just fine in most cases without human intervention. The best help comes from keeping that long-distance relationship to “keep wildlife WILD.”

For more information on this topic, visit

By: Katie Hafner, NFWF Soil Conservationist,

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