The month of May is not only known for producing flowers but the start of the white-tailed deer fawning season. In fact, nearly 90% of all white-tailed deer fawns are born between mid-May and mid-June. This time of year coincides with many of the outdoor activities that we all enjoy (hiking, mushroom hunting and shed hunting) and may sometimes bring us into contact with deer fawns.
When out enjoying nature, it is not uncommon to come upon a fawn tucked away under brushy cover, alone (Figure 1). At first glance, it may appear that the fawn has been abandoned by its mother, but this is rarely the case. This is actually part of the doe’s strategy to keep her fawn alive. Caching fawns in heavy cover serves to keep the fawn out of sight and away from would-be predators. A fawn will instinctively stay bedded down, remain motionless and silent until its mother returns from feeding. However, if harassed, the fawn may eventually leave the safety of cover and bleat in distress which results in the doe returning immediately to her fawn.
If you happen upon a fawn in the wild, you should not handle or harass it. Handling young fawns can distress not only the fawn, but the mother that is likely close by. If you happen to find a fawn cached in the woods, admire its hiding spot, spotted camouflage pattern and perhaps snap a photo. Take pride in knowing that the young fawn is not an abandoned orphan and will soon grow into the largest wild mammal in Indiana.
Under no circumstance should you remove a fawn from its hiding place. Removing wildlife from the environment is illegal without a proper handling permit from the Department of Natural Resources. If you find a sick or injured animal, you should contact your DNR law enforcement district or regional headquarters. The DNR does not care for injured animals but can connect you to licensed wildlife rehabilitators with the appropriate permits to care for injured wildlife.
Mammals of Indiana, J.O. Whitker and R.E. Mumford
Common Indiana Mammals, R.N. Chapman and R.N. Williams, FNR-413-W
Indiana DNR Orphaned and Injured Animals
Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University