My husband and I went on a walk up to the Troy Hill neighborhood. When we walked down the very steep hill back to our house, we found police by a newborn fawn. Kids had seen it at the bottom of the very tall Troy Hill hillside and brought it to their sidewalk so it wouldn't get hit by a car. It had apparently fallen from the top of the hill where the mother must have very recently given birth--it was all wet and couldn't walk. It had some scratches on it but otherwise looked unhurt. Animal Control came and said they had orders to take it to a local shelter, who would euthanize it because they don't accept fawns. Of course I couldn't let that happen...so that's how I ended up with it in my house.
I put it in a box because it was trying to move around and covered it with blankets to keep it warm--it had been shivering in the cool night because it was still wet. The poor thing immediately tried to suckle on the blankets (yes, my heart was breaking).
I immediately went online to try to find out what to do. The Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center was closed for the night, as was every other organization I could think to call. I'd planned to take it to the Wildlife Center in the morning but wasn't sure how to keep it alive through the night. I couldn't find the numbers of any deer rehabilitators. I did find an FAQ on the Wildlife Center's website that said either to leave it where you found it or put it back close to where you think it was. However, the top of the hill that the fawn fell from was a street with only woods on the curbside, and I didn't want to put it back because I was afraid it would fall down the hill again.
I called the 24-hour emergency Northview Animal Hospital. The woman who answered did have the number of some deer rehabilitators she could give me but urged me to go back to the top of the hill to see if there's any safe place to put the fawn. "If it was just born, the mom is frantically looking for it," she said. "We always tell people the best thing you can do in these situations is to put it back. The mom will find it if you put it back." So while she was looking up the contact info, we drove up to the top of the hill with the fawn to see if there was any safe place we could put it.
As soon as I got out of the car, I heard an animal in the woods. My husband heard it too. It had to have been the mother calling for her baby! I found a little nook where I thought the fawn would be safe, close to where I head the mom's call. When I put the fawn down, it immediately began crying for its mom. Great! But then, when I walked back to my car, I realized that anyone walking past could hear it too, and that it was visible from the road. We were right near a kid's community center, and I didn't want the chance of kids finding it. So I walked through the woods to try to find a safer place that people couldn't find. I found what I thought was a good spot...and then looked very conspicuous carrying something wrapped in a blanket into the woods! (The fawn tried to suckle my neck when I carried it, and this too broke my heart.)
I wrapped the fawn in the blanket so it wouldn't move around too much and so it would be warm, wished it luck, and left it by itself in the woods. I can't even explain how hard that was to do. It broke my heart to leave it there. The woman at Northview Animal Hospital called me back with contact information, and I told her I'd found a safe place and put it back. She told me that really was the best thing to do. "I know it's hard for us to understand, but it belongs in the woods, and its mother will find it. You did the right thing," she consoled me.
Did I? All night I worried about it. Did the mom find it, or was it alone in the cold or, worse, had it fallen down the hill and got run over? Should I have kept it and taken it to a rehabilitator in the morning? In the morning, I called the Wildlife Center (which, by the way, doesn't accept fawns but has contact information for deer rehabiliators) and they too assured me I did the right thing. When I asked them if I should go back and see if it was still there, they said no. "Moms will leave newborns in one spot until they can walk, so it will still be where you left it," she said. "And if you go back, you may interrupt the mom and the baby, so just leave them alone."
So I have no idea what happened, but everyone I talked to told me that the mom would find it, so I'd like to believe that's what happened.
So if you find a baby deer...
- Leave it alone! To keep their babies safe, moms will leave fawns for long periods alone so that they don't attract predators. The mom finds a spot and tells the baby to stay put. She knows it's there and will come back for it, so leave it there!
- If the fawn is in an unsafe place, put it back as close to where you think it came from as possible in a safe spot that people won't be able to find. The mom will find it! Moms won't reject their babies if they have human scent on it, so don't worry about that.
- If there is absolutely no place safe to put it back, keep it in a calm, dark place that's as free from noise and people as possible. Do not try to to feed it! Many types of food, including cow milk and bread, can make a fawn very sick. Call a deer rehabilitator as soon as possible for next steps.
- Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center: 412-793-6900
- Wildlife Center's Wildlife FAQ (info on what to do if you find a baby opposum, rabbit, squirrel, bird, or fawn)
- PA Game Commisssion: 724-238-9523
Most people I've told this story to asked me two questions:
- How big was the fawn? It's head and snout combined were about the size of my hand. It's long, spindly legs were about the length of my arm. Its body was the size of a very small dog.
- When did the mom and baby sound like when they were crying? Similar to a sheep's bleating, but not as much as a "baaa." More of a single bleat.