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Kammermeyer: Don't mess with nature's system

POSTED: June 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Beginning right about now and throughout the month of June and into July is the time of year when the forests and fields of Hall County and Northeast Georgia are full of cute, spotted, newborn deer fawns bedded down in a ball waiting for mama to return.

Don’t try to be a good Samaritan and rescue a fawn.

For sure, don’t take a fawn home with you!

If you already have (within 48 hours), put it back!

What might appear to be a tiny, helpless, orphaned or abandoned deer fawn is really a normal fawn with a normal mother who only visits the fawn three or four times per day to nurse it.

What about dad?

He is nowhere to be found, off with his buck buddies growing antlers and leaving all domestic duties to the doe.

It is nature’s way and the tiny fawn’s best survival chance.

For its first month of life, a fawn instinctively spends 90 percent of its time alone and away from its mother, curled up in a nearly invisible ball hiding from predators. It won’t move, not even twitching an ear, unless a predator virtually steps on it.

The doe intentionally avoids the immediate area of the fawn to reduce scent and keep from attracting predators such as dogs, coyotes, bears or bobcats.

Lying motionless in heavy cover, the fawn has two big advantages: It emits virtually no scent which would attract predators, and it’s russet coat, with about 300 white spots, is a natural camouflage pattern enabling them to hide virtually unseen.

The strategy is almost foolproof, except for one big hitch!

When well-meaning people come along and find the fawn all by itself, the trouble begins.

Although mother doe is nearby, our do-gooders don’t know this, and they stumble upon a tiny "orphaned" fawn.

For their first 10 days of life, fawns are easy to catch, and that’s what happens. The fawn gets caught and brought home.

Of course, the first thing they do is to feed it (newborn fawns look like they are starving to death even when they are in tip-top shape).

Even if fed the proper formula, chances are good that it will develop the scours (diarrhea), get seriously dehydrated and die.

Under the very best human care (veterinarians included), studies have shown that about 50 percent of all deer fawns die.

Suppose the do-gooder decides to call the DNR Wildlife Resources Division, Game Management biologist for advice.

She wants the biologist to come get it and put it in a place where someone will raise it and it will live happily ever after.

Sorry, there is no such place.

The zoos, game farms, research centers, nature centers and parks are all full of deer.

Most want to get rid of the surplus deer, certainly not take on another.

The fawn can’t be raised by hand and turned back loose in the real world because they remain forever tame and vulnerable.

Besides tame bucks becoming a real danger to people when they are in the rut, it’s not fair to the deer.

They have no survival skills and end up getting killed by coyotes, dogs, fences or automobiles.

What to do? Don’t pick up any fawns unless you are absolutely sure the mother is dead (ie. fawn lying next to its dead mother on the side of the road).

If you have already made the mistake, call the Wildlife Resources Division, Game Management section immediately and report it.

If it has been less than 48 hours since the fawn was picked up, it can be carefully replaced in the same locality and the mother will find it.

The old wives tale that a doe won’t accept a fawn with human scent on it is baloney!

If it has been longer than this, then you will be asked to bring the fawn to a nearby wildlife rehabilitator.

There are many trained licensed rehabilitators with fawn raising experience all over Georgia.

This is not a good fate for the fawn but it’s better than nothing.

Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to raise the fawn themselves, it is illegal and very difficult and unproductive for both the do-gooder and the fawn.

There are thousands of fawns quietly lying alone and still in the woods and fields of Northeast Georgia right now.

That’s the way Mother Nature meant for it to be for a fawn’s own best survival chances.

It works!

Remember, you can’t fool Mother Nature!

Also remember, no one is more qualified to raise a deer fawn than mama doe herself.



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