The Sportsman’s Corner: Fawn facts

  • A doe pauses in a field to allow her fawn to nurse on a peaceful summer day. Staff file photo/Paul Franz

Published: 6/10/2021 1:45:37 PM
Modified: 6/10/2021 1:45:41 PM

Perhaps the most common June reports that this writer receives are from people who find whitetail fawns. During the summer months, whitetail deer give birth and many fawns are born in Massachusetts. If you should come upon a fawn, LEAVE IT ALONE! Here are some facts that should help you understand more about fawn and deer behavior. MassWildlife has an information page you can consult for complete info at masswildlife.org.

Fawns are born in late May and early June. If you find a fawn, leave it alone. The animal may be motionless and seem vulnerable, but this is the normal behavior for a fawn. Even if you see a fawn alone for several days you should still leave it alone as the mother is probably feeding or bedded nearby. The does visit their fawns to nurse very infrequently, a behavior that helps fawns avoid detection by predators. It is not uncommon for fawns to be left alone for 6 to 8 hours at a time. Young fawns are usually quite safe when left alone because their color pattern and lack of scent help them to remain undetected.

If someone has taken a fawn into their care, they should immediately return it to where it was found, or to safer cover nearby (within 200 yards). Then, quickly leave the area to ensure the fawn doesn't follow you and in time the mother should feel safe enough to return. The mother will soon return to nurse the fawn, even after it has been handled by humans. Do not try and feed fawns as they have sensitive stomachs. If a fawn is visibly injured, call MassWildlife at 508-389-6300. Whitetail fawns cannot be cared for by wildlife rehabilitators.

Many times people try and help fawns as a response to what are really normal fawn behaviors. These normal behaviors include:

■A fawn that is still and unresponsive. Fawns view humans as predators and will drop their head and freeze to avoid detection.

■A fawn that is crying. Fawns can bleat (vocalize) in a way that sounds like crying if they are disturbed or are trying to locate their mother.

■A fawn that is in your yard.

Fawns are commonly found bedded in brushy areas with vegetative cover or even in some grassy areas — even in suburban areas close to homes or near roadways. A few years ago, this writer came upon a newborn fawn while mowing my lawn. After quickly backing up and away, the area was left alone and the fawn was gone the next day.

Wherever you find a fawn, their mother felt this was a safe place. On occasion, a fawn that has been disturbed may wander into a dangerous area or an area where the mother may not feel comfortable going such as onto a road, or near dwellings. Only if a fawn is in real danger should you interfere by moving the fawn to nearby forested or shrubby area where there is thick cover. Then leave quickly, so the fawn does not follow, and do not linger. The mother will not return if you are nearby.

■A fawn alone for long periods of time. Young fawns remain bedded, alone for most of the day and night. The mother will return several times to nurse briefly. She will not approach if people are nearby.

■A fawn that looks skinny and weak. All fawns appear skinny, but it’s not an indication that they are abandoned or starving. If disturbed, they may also look like they are weak or having trouble walking. Never feed a fawn; their stomachs are sensitive and the food or milk you give them can be very harmful.

These are all normal things for fawns, and while they may be alarming, you do more harm than good attempting to care for a fawn. It is normal to want to do something but the best thing to do is to remove yourself from the situation and overcome your curiosity and desire to make a difference. You will only jeopardize the fawn’s survival.

One way you can make a difference with wildlife in June is by assisting turtles. The common species we find locally, painted turtles and snapping turtles, are often encountered as they are crossing roadways as they are looking for places to lay eggs. You can stop (if it is safe!) and help them across. Be careful of snapping turtles, however, as they can bite and they have a pretty wide reach. Do not try to pull them by the tail. Using the shovel you keep for snow removal is a good tactic. Be careful and put on your hazard lights.

Antlerless deer permit

It is time to think about your antlerless deer permit or doe tag. It is required for everyone who plans to hunt antlerless deer this fall. You need to apply for a permit by the July 16 deadline, and then must check back after Aug. 1 to find out if you have been awarded the ability to purchase the permit. Hunters can apply online using MassFishHunt on a computer or smartphone. You need a valid hunting or sporting license to apply for an antlerless deer permit. There is no fee to apply; a $5 fee is charged only if you are awarded a permit during the instant award period. The instant award period begins Aug. 1 at 8 a.m. and ends on Dec. 31. Your odds of being awarded a permit are the same regardless of when you check your permit status. You can check the status of your permit through MassFishHunt.


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