Don’t try to rescue ‘abandoned’ fawns

By Sam Piatt

Sam Piatt

Sam Piatt

Submitted Photo

June is the peak of the birthing season for wild white-tailed does.

People will come across fawns while mowing hay or just out on a hike. Since it appears on the surface that the fawn has been abandoned by its parents, it’s tempting to bring it home…bottle feed it, keep it, raise it.

Not a good idea, wildlife officials say. The baby deer probably hasn’t been abandoned at all. The mother is probably within 100 yards, watching. You pick the deer up and take it home, she may then truly abandon it.

Also, it’s against the law to keep wildlife in captivity without the proper permit from fish and wildlife.

“We never issue permits for people to keep deer they find in the wild,” said

David Yancy, senior wildlife biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

And keeping and raising a deer can be plain dangerous. A friend of mine took one of these cute little fawns home and raised it to adulthood. In its first year, during the rutting season, the buck charged him when he came into the fenced-in area where he kept it. It gorged a chunk out of his thigh.

Fawns, weighing only six to eight pounds at birth, have hundreds of white spots to conceal them from predators. They are also born scentless and stay bedded down during their first few weeks of life, with twins bedded separately. The mother may leave them hidden like this for hours at a time while she feeds. But she doesn’t abandon them. She returns to feed them and care for them. The last thing needed is human interference, regardless of how good the intentions may be.

“Sometimes people pick them up and bring them to us, thinking they’re doing the right thing,” said Yancy. “But generally what they have done is to seal its doom. Oftentimes you can’t return them to where they came from because the mother has looked for them and given up on finding them.”

Once raised in captivity, deer can’t be released because they lack the survival skills needed to live in the wild, Yancy said.

“And they have come to associate humans with food,” he added.

There are “licensed rehabilitators” and they are the only people permitted to hold and rehabilitate injured wildlife. If you find an injured animal, call Kentucky Fish and Wildlife at toll-free 1-800-858-1549 to find a licensed rehabilitator near you.

“Generally, the best way to care for wildlife during this important season is to leave animals alone,” Yancy said.


June is also the time for weddings, and I’m reminded of the day nearly 30 years ago when I “gave away” (I should have held out for a lucrative dowry – at least a couple of beef cattle) that little girl of mine and Bonnie’s.

The days leading up to the big event were far too hectic to allow time for contemplation. And when I walked her down the aisle, and 100 pairs of eyes turned to see her, all I could think of was how beautiful she was and how proud I was of her.

Daddy’s girl.

The only girl, and the last of three fledglings to leave the nest.

It wasn’t until the minister asked, “Who gives this woman away?” that the finality of the thing settled in on me.

I heard a voice say, “Her mother and I do.” It was far too distant – too shaky, too raspy – to have been my voice.

As I had stood there at the altar waiting to be asked that question, my mind had sped back more than 20 years, back to when she was three months old, the bout she had with pneumonia that winter, the oxygen tent, the looks of concern on the doctor’s and nurses’ faces, the anxiety, the prayers.

I saw the overturned bike, the skinned knee, and her rushing to me with outstretched arms and tears streaming down her face.

Daddy’s girl.

It wasn’t until a few days after the wedding – when I walked into her empty room – that I realized she was really gone.

Gone from the walls were her photos and banners and pennants of her girlhood achievements. Her battered Teddy bear was gone from the bed.

I went out into the yard and stood under the maple tree, looking at the marks on the limb where the rope swing used to hang. She and the two little girls next door had loved to play on that swing.

Now the swing was gone, and so were the two little girls next door – both married now, each with little girls of their own.

The grass was growing again where the bare spot had been.

Yes, the swing was gone, the grass grew back, and all the children’s voices had vanished from the yard.

I consoled myself with knowing that she had gotten a good man, one who promised to take care of her through sickness and in health.

That, and with knowing – to me, at least – she’ll always be…daddy’s girl.

Sam Piatt Piatt Submitted Photo

By Sam Piatt

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.