Sometimes the road to overburdened animal sanctuaries is paved with good intentions.
Since deer breeding season begins in the fall, most fawns are born in the springtime months, according to Phyllis Allen, senior veterinary technician at the Freeman-Fritts Animal Shelter.
The shelter, in partnership with the Animal Welfare Society of Kerr County, also serves as a drop-off point for Kendalia Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation.
“In the first few weeks of their lives, baby deer are a little uncoordinated and they don’t get around very well, so the mothers leave them in a safe place to go graze,” said Allen. “The fawns don’t have a flight response, so their instincts are to stay where they’re put – and mom will come back, usually at dusk, and feed them and then go off again.”
Because fawns this age have no strong scent, they are typically safe from predators while the mother is out foraging.
But – as is often the case – locals find these young fawns alone in their yards or on their front porches, and mistakenly believe them to be abandoned.
“People are picking them up and dropping them off with us because they don’t see the mother around, and we get inundated with them,” Allen said.
But, she cautioned, most of these fawns are perfectly healthy, with mothers to care for them – and unnecessary human intervention results in separating them from their mothers.
If encountered, newborn fawns should be left alone, Allen said.
“Don’t touch them,” she added. “They’re going to be fine. Please leave them alone, because the mother is going to come back for them – this is just how nature deals with baby fawns.”
Only in an emergency is human intervention warranted, she added – such as if the fawn’s mother has been killed, or if the fawn is injured or distressed in some way.
“Kendalia [Wildlife Rescue] might get 60 deer during the season,” Allen said. “It’s not an ideal scenario. Even though rehabbers are very capable of caring for them, they have the best chance of survival when staying with their mother.”
Sometimes, well-meaning individuals also bring fawns into their homes to attempt bottle-feeding, but this is ill-advised, she noted.
Not only are there a number of risks involved when interacting with wild animals, but it’s also illegal in the state of Texas to possess wildlife such as deer without required state or local permits – and penalties can be strict.
Before attempting to move a seemingly abandoned fawn, Allen advised locals to call Freeman-Fritts at 257-4144 to consult with a professional on whether the fawn is actually in need of help.
Freeman-Fritts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and no-kill shelter promoting animal adoption in the Hill Country. To learn more or get involved, visit www.freemanfritts.com. For more information on Kendalia Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, visit www.wildlife-rescue.org.
“It’s a case where people truly think they’re doing the right thing, but they’re actually taking a perfectly healthy baby from its mother,” said Allen.