ItвЂ™s not unusual to find a deer fawn or an elk calf in the woods — or even in town — this time of the year. If you find a deer fawn or an elk calf, the best thing to do is keep your distance and leave the animal right where you found it.
Ron Stewart, a regional conservation outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says the DWR receives calls every year from people who found an вЂabandonedвЂ™ baby bird or mammal and would like the agency to take care of it.
вЂњWhile we appreciate and share the callerвЂ™s concern,вЂќ he says, вЂњthe best thing to do with a baby deer or elk is to leave it right where you found it.вЂќ
Stewart says deer and elk use several techniques to help their young avoid predators.В вЂњOften these strategies make it look like the adults have abandoned their young,вЂќ he says.В вЂњActually, theyвЂ™re doing the best thing possible to protect their young.вЂќ
For example, Stewart says deer fawns learn to walk soon after theyвЂ™re born.В вЂњBut they arenвЂ™t very coordinated,вЂќ he says, вЂњand they arenвЂ™t strong enough to run away from predators.В So, evolution has added a few safety measures.вЂќ
Most of the animals that prey on fawns have a good sense of smell.В But they can see only in black and white. вЂњDeer fawns are born scentless,вЂќ Stewart says.В вЂњThey donвЂ™t have an odor, and predators canвЂ™t smell them.вЂќ
Also, if you looked at a deer fawn in black and white, their creamy brown coats would be the same shade of color as the new grass and leaves.В вЂњAdd a few spots to their coats,вЂќ he says, вЂњand theyвЂ™re well camouflaged.вЂќ
Because a fawn doesnвЂ™t have a scent and itвЂ™s camouflaged so well, hiding a fawn for the first few weeks of its life is the best way to protect it from predators.
The fawnвЂ™s mother will usually move away from the fawn to feed and rest, but she will still remain reasonably close by.В вЂњIf she senses danger, such as a human,вЂќ Stewart says, вЂњshe will leave the area in hopes of luring the вЂpredatorвЂ™ away from her fawn.вЂќ
Stewart says people, who can see a full range of color, often see a fawn in its hiding place.В Since the doe has left the area, many people think the fawn has been abandoned, and they pick it up. вЂњThatвЂ™s the worst thing you can do,вЂќ he says. вЂњWithout knowing it, youвЂ™ve just taken a fawn away from its mother.вЂќ
Doing the right thing
So what should you do if you see a deer fawn or an elk calf in town or in the woods?
вЂњFirst of all, donвЂ™t approach it,вЂќ Stewart says.В вЂњWatch it or take a photo of it from a distance, but donвЂ™t approach it.В If you get too close, the scent you leave could draw a predator to the animal.вЂќ
Stewart says numerous studies have also shown that predators will follow human tracks.В вЂњIвЂ™ve watched coyotes and other predators cross a path that someone just walked and immediately turn and follow their path,вЂќ he says.
вЂњI donвЂ™t know if the predators are curious or if theyвЂ™ve learned that humans can lead them to food.В But if youвЂ™ve just gotten close to a fawn, youвЂ™ll lead the predator right to it.вЂќ
If you see a fawn or a calf, itвЂ™s best to stop quite a distance from it.В вЂњThen continue past the animal in a loop so the predator follows you around and away from the fawn or calf,вЂќ he says.
Finding and petting baby animals is another problem.В вЂњThe animalвЂ™s survival depends on it staying scentless,вЂќ Stewart says.В вЂњIf you touch the animal, youвЂ™ve placed your scent on it.В That will make it easier for a predator to find it.вЂќ