Wildlife experts: Please don't touch or 'help' fawns in the wild

baby deer / fawn
Posted at 5:06 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 21:33:09-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's a question on a lot of minds during the late spring and early summer, what should be done about a fawn that's seemingly separated from their mother. The answer? Nothing.

Social media posts from concerned Middle Tennesseans sometimes pop up around this time of year.

A fawn found in the woods, helpless and alone. What is to be done?

Experts say that fawn is actually not alone and you shouldn't move, feed or even touch the animal. It's where its mother left it.

"They're out there sitting on their own, people don't know, does this thing need help where's the mom? The reality is, if deer treated their babies like we treated ours, if they carried them everywhere, they would be highly [preyed] upon," said Debbie Sykes, with Nashville Wildlife Conservation Center. "So, what they do instead is they find what they think is a safe spot, they put them down and say that I will be back at dusk and dawn to feed you."

This is true of both birds and deer right now. It's best to leave them alone unless you feel there is an immediate danger to the animal. In which case, it's best to simply take a picture and contact a wildlife rehabilitation center about what to do.

"We can see if there's ticks on the eyes, if there's fly eggs. We can tell if they look weak like if your cat or dog looked weak. Then we know it needs help. But if it's just sitting where it's supposed to, it's going to be quiet, it's going to lay down because that's how it survives," said Sykes.

Interfering with the animal, including feeding it or giving it water, can cause a risk to their lives.

Young animals can become dependent on humans quickly which will impact their ability to survive in the future.

"As a baby grows, they don't have a mirror," said Sykes. "They don't know what they look like, who they are. They learn from their parents who they are. So, as the baby grows, the parents come back to feed the baby birds, they know who they are based off who is coming and feeding them, then we have the issue that they think they're potentially human."

There's an example from several days ago when a man who was working on a car found a nest of birds after he turned it on and the birds were blown out of the tailpipe. They had made a nest there.

The man snapped a picture and contacted Nashville Wildlife Conservation Center. He was instructed to take the birds, but then in a makeshift nest inside a pipe in a box and leave them where he found them. Eventually, the mother came back.

The TWRA has links on its websites to wildlife rehabilitation centers in counties across Tennessee for people who have questions about wildlife.