Buddy & Porky’s Pet Health: Coming Upon Wildlife

Dear Porky and Buddy,

This isn’t exactly a pet question, but it is an animal question so maybe you can help. My neighbor was out mowing his back field yesterday and came upon a fawn sleeping all by itself in the grass. He didn’t know what to do so he just stopped mowing there and when we went out to try to get the fawn and get it to safety later in the afternoon it was gone. There was no sign of any struggle so we hope some other animal did not come along and kill it–maybe it just wandered off somewhere. But why would the mother doe leave a fawn like that completely unprotected? Do you think she may have been hurt or killed herself?


Dear Jim.

Thanks for this timely question. There are lots of baby animals around at this time of year. People are likely to come across not just fawns, but rabbits, birds, any number of adorable fuzzy creatures that seem to be helpless and abandoned. For the most part they are not.

According to the HSUS, 99% of fawns “rescued” by well-meaning humans were not orphaned at all–in fact the mother doe was probably standing nearby when the fawn was taken.

What most people don’t know is that the mother leaves the fawn so that her own smell does not attract predators. Immediately upon giving birth the mother consumes the afterbirth and intensely grooms the fawn removing all blood and remains from giving birth. This activity minimizes odors that can attract predators as well as insects. This is why the mother does not stay with her fawn, her own odor can also attract predators.

Soon after birth the mother also teaches the fawn to bed and remain quiet and motionless. She also teaches it vocalization, so if the fawn is in distress it can vocalize a “bawl” or “bleat” sound signaling its mother, who is always nearby.

During the initial part of the fawn`s growth, much of its time is spent bedding amid the landscape. Only when the time comes to nurse and groom does the infant stand upright. Its survival is based on its uncanny ability to remain secluded and quiet.

The mother doe returns 8-10 times a day, but only to nurse her fawn, and she will not return if someone is there. Well intended people who “rescue” a fawn, assuming that it has been orphaned or abandoned are one of the biggest threats to fawn survival. Most people are ill equipped to

care for a fawn. The first few weeks of life, a fawn is completely dependent on its mother’s milk and the antibodies the milk provides to keep it well nourished and free of disease. Unfortunately, the majority of fawns taken into captivity eventually die. Their best chance for survival is in their native habitat.

If you should come across a fawn again, leave it alone, unless a dead mother is found or the fawn looks like it was hit by a car, attacked by another animal or in some other way looks like it needs veterinary care. In that case call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who can give you specific instructions about what to do, or not do, and take over care of the fawn if that is appropriate.

Thanks for caring about all animals–and thanks even more for stopping to get advice when you are not sure what to do.

But why are you out mowing anyway when you could be playing golf? There is still time to sign up for the Chasing and Fetching Balls (a/k/a Golf) Tournament and get the 10% early birdie discount. It’s on Friday, July 16 from 9am to 5ish at the Greenview Country Club in West Monroe. Captain & Crew, 18 holes with a cart, lunch and beverages on the course, a $10,000 hole in one prize, skins game, putting contest, cash prizes for first place teams, BBQ chicken dinner and a fabulous silent and live auction. All for only $100 per player (or $90 if you sign up by June 1st). Sign up online at www.oswegohumane.org or to download a mail in form. Or call 207-1070 for information.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter assistance, information and referral, adoption assistance to pet owners, humane education programs, foster care and adoption for pets in urgent need, assistance with lost and found pets. Our administrative offices and spay/neuter clinic are located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Check our web site at www.oswegohumane.org or call (315) 207-1070 for more information or to be placed on our mailing list for our newsletter.