If a deer fawn is found alone in the woods, leave it there, advises a state wildlife biologist. Its mother has not abandoned it; she is probably nearby. Removing a fawn from the forest is also illegal because the animal is being taken outside the legal season for taking deer, which is the hunting season.
"Many people who come upon a solitary spotted fawn in the woods or
along a roadway mistakenly assume the animal has been deserted by its
mother and want to take the apparently helpless creature home to care
for it," said Charles Ruth, Deer/Turkey Project supervisor for the S.C.
Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Young fawns like this have not
been abandoned but are still in the care of a doe."
The apparently "helpless" deer fawns born during April, May and
June in South Carolina will begin daily movements with their mothers in
about three or four weeks. Human handling and disturbance of fawns can
cause a doe to shy away or even desert her offspring. Also, a bleating
response by the fawn can summon nearby predators.
"It’s part of nature’s plan for a doe deer to leave her fawn or
fawns alone for their first few weeks of life," Ruth said. "The reason
for this unusual maternal action is that the fawn at this age is better
protected away from the doe. The presence of the doe nearby would
attract predators because the doe lacks the protective coloration of the
fawn, and the older and larger doe has a much stronger odor."
"Each spring and summer the DNR gets many calls from people who
have discovered these ‘lost’ deer," Ruth said. "Young fawns are without a
doubt cute and cuddly, but if taken into captivity they grow into
semi-tame adult deer that can become quite dangerous." Adult buck deer,
no matter how they were raised, are especially dangerous during the
breeding season. Even does raised by humans are unpredictable.
Occasionally "tame" deer seriously injure people, according to Ruth, and
in cases where the deer are a threat to humans, the deer sometimes have
to be killed.
People often ask the DNR if it needs deer fawns for its research
projects. Ruth said although the DNR is actively engaged in deer
research, current studies do not use captive animals.