The moon is coming full and it reminds me to make my list of fawn supplies. Goat milk replacer, a new bag of colostrum, a few packages of rubber nipples, 16 ounce soda bottles (someone will have to drink the soda for me) bottle brushes, canned pumpkin and of course, baby shampoo for washing fawn butts.
Almost every fawn up here in the north, will be born between this full moon and the next. It’s been a mild winter, so there will probably be many sets of twins, maybe some triplets. They are born I such large numbers that the coyotes who prey on them will be overwhelmed and over fed. It seems harsh, but it actually allows more fawns to survive.
As soon as a doe gives birth, she will clean up her fawn and get it on its feet as soon as possible. She will lead the wobbly baby to a safer place, away from the scent of the birth process. There, she will nurse it and quickly move away. Since the fawn has little scent of its own, it will be safer from predators if she is not too close. She will be nearby watching and listening though and will come back periodically to allow it to feed and often lead it to another place and hide it again.
Instinctively, the fawns know not to move. Their soft spots allow them to blend into their surroundings. Sometimes those surroundings may be surprisingly close to a house. I receive many calls each spring from frantic home owners who find a fawn tucked among the hostas or under a low hanging tree. If the fawn is lying quietly, I assure them that it has not been abandoned. Does rarely abandon their babies and a quiet fawn us usually just fine. She thinks of your yard is a safe place for her baby. Enjoy the treat.
If you find a fawn lying quietly, curled up with his nose tucked to its tail. It is fine to take a quick photo from a distance (NO SELFIES please) and then move away. It may pick up its head and give you a gaze, but will stay put unless you interfere with it. You may hear a snort from a distance and know that mom is watching your every move and wants you to leave her baby alone. Please do!
If by chance the fawn is in an unsafe place, like the middle of a two track or a construction site (believe me, it’s happened), Try and contact a rehabber before you move it to a safer spot in the near vicinity. Never move a fawn that is not in emanate danger.
A fawn that is wandering around and crying needs help. A fawn standing alongside a dead mother on the road needs help. Call a licensed rehabilitator (there is a list on line, under wildlife rehabilitation)
Every year I get in at least one fawn that was unnecessarily removed from the wild. Sometimes It is a well-meaning person who doesn’t understand the ways of nature. Sometimes, I can return them to their mothers. Most of the time, it is too late. Others are attacked by family dogs (KEEP YOUR DOG LEASHED when in the woods in the spring), once, I got one in that had been dragged through the doggy door by a yellow lab. It’s not usually pretty when a dog grabs a fawn. I’ve been spattered with blood way too often trying to save them. It always breaks my heart.
Most of the time, the fawns are found in the area where a doe has been killed by a car and someone manages to catch it and bring it to me. Sometimes people hear the fawn crying for days before they find it. Then I am dealing with a dehydrated, starving and traumatized animal and trying desperately to save it.
Then, there are the people who think they can raise it themselves. That’s not a good idea. Not only is it illegal, but it’s not as easy as it seems. If they are lucky, someone, (usually the DNR) finds out and the fawn is brought to me. Hopefully too much damage has not already been done.
Fawns need to be fed at least 5 to 6 times a day, 24 hours a day. That means getting up in the middle of the night for weeks. Fawns don’t take to the bottle easily and it can be a real struggle in the beginning to feed them. They require special formulas, they require manual stimulation with a warm wash cloth to get them to eliminate in the beginning. Then they poop and pee anytime, anywhere on whoever that feel like. That’s the reason for the baby shampoo.
I usually start them in a play pen in the house, and then as soon as possible I move them to a large, completely enclosed, outdoor pen attached to the house. The door stays closed for a few weeks, and on warm days I let them out into a small area within our fenced in yard. When they can jump that three foot fence, they have the run of the whole, fenced in ¾ acre yard. And run they do. The center of the yard is my garden surrounded by another fence (People joke that the animals run free in my yard , but the plants are caged. It’s true.) The area around the garden becomes their own personal race track and I can never keep grass growing on the corners.
Bottle feedings get further apart as the fawns start eating grass (and my hostas) and deer chow. They get peppermints for treats and till mid-July, they still get tucked into bed in their pen every night. I love that last feeding at night best. I get milky kisses and nuzzles before I go in. As I latch the door, I always say “Good night sweet princes and princesses of the forest. Dream of sunny days and cool nights, winter moons and sweet clover. Someday you will be free.”
Then in September, I lower the gates to the outside world. Sometimes they go over right away; sometimes, they don’t leave the yard for another week. They are allowed to come and go as they please, as long as they please. The very longest night of the year is the night they aren’t all back in the yard when I go to bed. I lay there listening for every sound. “Was that a coyote in the distance? Did I hear the screech of brakes?” Usually though, they are there in the morning waiting for breakfast and peppermints.
Some stop coming back within weeks, some still return until Thanksgiving or Christmas. Eventually though, it happens. I go out in the yard and call, “Babies! Where are you?”, and no one comes.
Then I stand there in the silence and say “Good night sweet princes and princesses of the forest. Dream of sunny days and cool nights, of winter moons and sweet clover. Today….you are free.