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Ask a Conservation Officer: Leave fawns alone

Q: If I find a baby deer sitting alone in the woods or along the road and the mother is nowhere to be found, should I pick it up to help it? What should I do?

A: This is a very timely question as deer have just recently given birth to their fawns and are starting to move around with them. Unlike human mothers, many wild animals (especially white-tailed deer) protect their young by leaving the babies in what the mothers consider a safe place, and later returning to “pick up” their young. Because of their camouflage coloring and general lack of smell, the young are very safe in this situation.

If you find a fawn lying somewhere, it is imperative for the health of the deer that you leave it alone where you found it and don’t disturb the animal. Unless the mother is lying dead very close by, from a car collision or something similar, she will return to claim her young. Interference from humans usually ends in a death sentence for the young deer, as humans cannot take care of a fawn as well as its mother, or it could lead to a lifetime in captivity.

It also is illegal to possess a fawn and most other wild animals without first receiving direction from a conservation officer. If you have concerns about an animal in such a situation, leave the animal where it is and contact your local Department of Natural Resources  wildlife office Monday through

Friday or your local conservation officer on weekends or off hours, for guidance. If neither is available, you also can contact Wildwoods animal rehabilitation at (218) 491-3604.

Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit.