Finding a newborn fawn just outside our front door came as quite a surprise the other day.
Whether the mother deer left it there, or the tiny spotted baby found shelter under a chair after the neighbour fired up a lawn mower, I’m not sure.
But there it was, curled into a brown ball, big eyes on us and very still.
Startled by my sudden appearance as I opened the front door, the fawn bounded on wobbly legs out of its hiding place and across the street, peering from behind a tree. An hour later, the baby was back at our place, as if following strict orders from its mother.
By morning, nearly 12 hours later, the fawn was gone.
As the region’s growing deer population delivers its babies between April and June, fawns are a common sight — and they’re sometimes found alone and looking abandoned as mothers forage for hours before returning to nurse.
Apparently, by leaving the fawn alone, we did everything right.
Wallis Moore Reid, senior wildlife rehabilitator at the SPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre, said the facility in Metchosin has been fielding several calls a day about fawns this spring. And while most discovered fawns are left alone, “that doesn’t happen as often as we’d like,” she said.
“Give us a call before intervening,” said Moore Reid. “If there is blood or a fractured limb, and it’s a safe animal to contain, do it and call. And if it’s dangerous, like a bird of prey or large mammal, we can come out and contain it.” (Wild ARC works closely with the province’s conservation service.)
But most fawns should be left alone, Moore Reid said. A doe can cover long distances in order to find enough food, and young fawns can’t keep up with her pace.
Sgt. Scott Norris, works in the B.C. Conservation Officers Service south Island region, said they receive dozens of calls every spring about fawns. They rescue, on average about five every year, many due to does being killed by vehicles.
“I’ve got lots of stories about running through the bush after fawns,” he said.
When people bring fawns to his office thinking they are abandoned, Norris often returns to the site to reunite them with does.
He said last year in the Shawnigan Lake area, a rural resident called to say a doe with fawn was attacking another fawn. When Norris arrived and retrieved the slightly injured fawn, it began crying for its mother.
“I was backing out of the driveway with the fawn in a box and the mom appeared behind my truck and would not move. She heard the crying and came back.”
Wild ARC’s Metchosin centre is currently caring for six fawns. In all cases, it was confirmed their mothers had been killed, most by vehicle strikes.
The facility is at its busiest time of year as wild animals give birth. As of Wednesday, staff were caring for seven raccoons, 10 eastern cottontail rabbits, dozens of squirrels and several species of birds, including a turkey vulture.
Moore Reid said Wild ARC isn’t at capacity, but “it’s early and it’s ramping up over the past several weeks.”
She said any rescued fawns are usually released in October as a herd to ensure their best chances of survival.
According to data compiled by the Capital Regional District, the white-spotted fawn relies on its colouration, lack of scent and silence for protection. Experts say does also eat any fawn feces and urine to remove any trace from predators.
Twin fawns are most common in urban environments, though young does often have only one offspring. Occasionally, triplets are born. At birth, fawns weigh 2.7 to four kilograms. Up to 70 per cent of fawns die, but significantly more survive in urban areas.
Although the conservation service has reported several bear sightings in the capital region, there have been no reports of orphaned cubs. Wild ARC said bear cubs are usually transported to better-equipped facilities on the north Island.
The Wild ARC facility treated 2,869 wild animals from 140 different species last year and more than 42,000 overall since opening in 1997. It relies on donations to operate.