Leave Fawns Alone by James L. Cummins

Many Mississippians are concerned about wildlife and will do what they can to protect and conserve them. Over the past year, Wildlife Mississippi has been overwhelmed with calls from concerned citizens who want someone to come get a deer fawn, baby duck, baby bird or baby rabbit they’ve found, only to become upset when they’re told the young animal is probably okay and should be left alone. 

Most people wouldn’t go over to a table in a restaurant and pick up a child, take it home and then call the sheriff. The child’s mother or father is probably in the buffet line or not too far away. But many people will pick up a deer fawn. The fawn’s mother is usually feeding close by. This problem is not new to Mississippi or the Southeast. Every time late spring and early summer roll around, we get a new crop of fawns and other wildlife. 

The urge by many well-intentioned people is to pick these animals up and take them home to raise and care for them. Thinking the fawn has been abandoned by its mother, some individuals take the fawn home with them to bottle feed and raise. They often end up calling the conservation officer or biologist for guidance about caring for the animal. In addition to it being illegal to handle most native wildlife except during legal hunting seasons, newborn wild animals are almost never abandoned and should be left where they are found. 

It is perfectly normal for the doe deer to leave her young fawn while she is off feeding nearby. The doe returns occasionally to check on the fawn and allows it to nurse. Because of the fawn’s natural instinct to lie still at this early age, people are able to walk right up to fawns. I have walked up on fawns in the woods and fields on our farms in Monroe, Montgomery and Webster counties. Handling fawns is a problem. Anywhere you have deer, you’ll have this problem. 

All wildlife should be left in their natural environment. Attempting to treat wildlife as pets inevitably results in unfavorable consequences for the animal in question. Wildlife that loses its fear of humans often times poses a threat to people, as we have seen with alligators on the Ross Barnett Reservoir and even in the City of Jackson. 

It is illegal to keep wild animals in confinement except under special permitting procedures. It is best for all concerned to leave them in the wild. This is better for the animal in question and will help keep our wildlife “wild.”

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi.

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