Monday, May 21, 2012

Rescued Fawn

Early on Friday evening, our next-door neighbors caught Tom as he was outside, and beckoned him in to see something in their house.  They had found a baby deer, crawling along in the middle of the street, and brought it inside.  It was too late in the day to call any animal rescue places, so they hoped to keep it overnight, and call Animal Friends (a "no kill" shelter) in the morning.

We live on the corner house of a quiet street.  Our little bend in the road is made up of nosy neighbors (I use that term fondly) who all peek out the windows and doors to find out what is going on, and chat with each other as they walk by.  So neighborhood news seems to spread like wildfire.  With the exception of our family and some hipster kids who live a few houses down, the block is made up of long-time residents who have known each other for years (and many of whom are related in some way).  So suffice it to say that within an hour, the whole street knew all about the rescued deer.

We got to stop over and see the fawn a couple times.  He(/she) was so small and cute!  And he still had a length of umbilical cord attached, and what looked to be a bit of afterbirth on its back, so he couldn't have been very old at all.  Shortly after they took him into the house, he got up on wobbly legs for what - as far as they know - was the first time ever.

Hard to tell here, but he was only slightly larger than a cat.
Why was he left in the middle of the street?  Well, there are woods nearby.  It seems strange that the mother would have given birth in the street.  But it would also be strange for her to give birth close enough to the road that the baby could have dragged itself (since it wasn't walking yet, presumably) into the road....and then that she would just leave it alone.

The women who had found him didn't really have any way of feeding him.  We gave them an old baby bottle of Sly's, and the rest of our jug of whole milk.  Cow milk and deer milk should be....sorta close, right??  They planned to feed him regularly over the night, then give him up to the shelter the next morning.

I didn't run into the neighbors for the rest of the weekend, so I never got to hear how things went with the fawn.  But this morning (Monday), there was a knock on the door.  It was a man from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  I told him he had the wrong house, and sent him next door.  Meanwhile, I stood eagerly looking out the side door (becoming a "nosy neighbor" myself) so that I could question him when he passed by again - and make sure that he wasn't planning to put the little deer to sleep!

He came out shortly after with the little fawn in his arms.  I asked what he would do with it.  According to him (and I relate this statement with a bit of skepticism), he will return the fawn to the woods where it came from.  The officer (are they called "officers"?) said the popular belief about how the mother won't recognize her fawn's scent once humans have touched them is just an old wives tale.  Mother deer often leave their fawns alone during the day, he said, but then come back for them in the evening.  If you ever find an "abandoned" fawn, you should just leave it alone (or return it to the nearest wooded area, if it's in the middle of the street, as in this case).  His hope is that the mother will find it, and take care of it again.

I want to believe all this is true.  But as I said, I feel there might be a chance he was just lying for my benefit.  Sort of like when I was in high school and I participated in a veterinary science "apprenticeship" at the community college.  Each week, we had to anesthetize little mice, and perform some sort of unnecessary surgery on them (such as neutering them, or removing part of the spleen), then stitch them back up.  Conscientious teenagers that we were, we were all very concerned about what was done with the mice after they woke up.  The professor assured us that he always "found good homes for them" with his college students.  It was only years later that I realized that had to be a load of BS, and that the mice must have been "disposed of" or used as snake food or something.

Anyways, the moral is: if you find a baby fawn, your best bet is probably to just leave it alone.  And don't call anyone official about it unless there's a true need.


  1. We live in an area that has a gazillion deer wandering the neighborhood. We woke up one morning to discover a fawn in our front yard. It wasn't until the next day that the Momma returned for it. I was worried but thankfully all ended well!

  2. How adorable! And what a strange place to find him, the poor little thing-- I hope he and his mother have been reunited.