In Tennessee, white-tailed fawns are usually born around May 15th to June 15th, but they can be born as early as April and as late as August
A doe will stake out a territory and her fawns are the only fawns in that particular area. It may be as small as 2 acres or as large as 20 acres. She will give birth, clean the fawn, feed it and move it away from the birthing site.
The doe leaves the fawn alone for eight hours or more, while she feeds, drinks, and her milk replenishes. She will return several times during the course of the day to feed and/or clean her baby before leaving once again.
Young fawns have little scent and spend most of the first 2 weeks of their life inactive, except while nursing. Since their natural instinct for these 2 weeks is freeze behavior, it is unlikely fawns will be found by dogs or coyotes (unless they trip over them).
If a doe stayed with her fawn, it would give away its hiding place. If her fawn is moved, she will look for her baby for 2-3 days, continually returning to the area where she last left it. By one month of age, most fawns begin to venture out to browse with their mothers.
Fawns may be abandoned because its mother may have been killed, because of multiple births, inexperience of first time mothers or people or dogs frightening mothers away.
Under certain circumstances the fawn should be rescued immediately:
- If found next to a dead doe
- If it is injured, has severe scrapes, deep puncture wounds, or broken bones
- If it has maggots or lots of flies around or is heavily infested with ticks around the eyes
- If it has diarrhea
- If it is severely dehydrated
- If its body temperature is extremely low
- If it is found laying on its side with outstretched limbs
If the fawn you have found doesn’t fit the above criteria, a hands-on check can help determine if the fawn can safely be left for a few hours.
Be aware that when you begin the exam, the fawn may run away or bleat, bringing the doe to the rescue. If that happens, back away-you have your answer!
Otherwise, stand the fawn up, feel under the stomach for the umbilical scab (if it’s there, the fawn is under a week old), lift the tail and look for diarrhea, check for maggots, scrapes, punctures or other injuries.
Put your little finger in the mouth, toward the back of the tongue. A healthy fawn’s temperature is about 102 degrees, so the mouth should feel warm to the touch and the saliva should not feel sticky.
Pull up the skin on the back and check for tenting. There is a small indentation between the corner of the eye and the ear. When a fawn is healthy and hydrated, this depression is barely visible.
When severely dehydrated and the fat reserve is used up, these depressions can be as much as 1/4inch deep and the eyes will look like they are protruding.
It takes several days for a fawn to starve to death (depending on its age and size), so if none of these factors are present, it is reasonable to leave the fawn or put it back where it was found.
Keep dogs penned up and people away and check in a few hours. If it’s morning, wait until after dark. If it’s evening, leave the fawn until morning -WEATHER PERMITTING.
Young fawns cannot tolerate cold, wet conditions. Fawns will usually move no more than 50 feet without the urging of their mothers. After waiting 10-12 hours, if it’s still near the spot it was found, bring it in.
Putting human scent on the fawn could cause the doe to perceive her baby to be in danger and cause her to move it to the farthest part of her fawning range rather than the average 200 feet, or so, she would move it if there were no perceived danger. Following these steps helps fawns from being ‘kidnapped’ and assures only the fawns truly in need of rescuing are brought in.
If you have to rescue a fawn, follow these instructions:
- Place old towels in a cardboard box or dog crate and put the fawn inside
- Move it to a warm, quiet, dark place to reduce its stress. Place a heating pad, on low, under the back half of the crate. Keep it away from pets and people
- DO NOT GIVE THE FAWN ANY TYPE OF MILK OR FORMULA MIXTURE
- Only after the fawn has warmed up, can you attempt to rehydrate it. Make a 50/50 mixture of Pedialyte OR Gatorade and warm water and offer it to the fawn in a bottle or a bowl
- If it does not swallow, do not force it, as this could cause it to aspirate