Don't Be a Fawn Kidnapper

Wildlife Center of Virginia Offers Advice for Caring for Deer Fawns

Each spring, the Wildlife Center of Virginia, an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife located in Waynesboro, receives hundreds of telephone inquiries from across Virginia from concerned individuals who have found a White-tailed Deer fawn.

In most cases, these fawns are in fine shape and need no human intervention.

In Virginia, White-tailed Deer fawns are born from April through July, with the majority of births in June. From birth the fawns are left alone for much of the day while their mothers go off to feed. This reduces the likelihood that the mother will attract a predator to the fawn. Mothers generally return only at dusk and dawn to move and feed fawns.
A healthy fawn found during the day most likely has not been abandoned and does not need to be “rescued”.

“Don’t be a fawn kidnapper,” Ed Clark, President of the Wildlife Center, said. “In most cases, a fawn found alone has not been abandoned and is not helpless – it’s a young animal still receiving care from its mother. Despite our well-meaning intentions, the best chance for survival of a fawn is to leave it in its mother’s care.

“A fawn by itself is not an orphan. A fawn that is a bit wobbly is probably just learning to walk. A fawn that is lying down, quietly and not moving, is not necessarily sick,” Clark continued. 

Thus far in 2013, the Center has admitted 50 White-tailed Deer fawns, including some that have been kidnapped.

The Wildlife Center has developed the following tips to help assess whether a fawn needs assistance.

1. I found a fawn and it is all alone.  If a fawn is uninjured and alone, it should not be removed from the area. If you are concerned that the doe is not feeding the fawn, you may go back the next day to check if the fawn is still there. If the fawn is gone, the mother has likely retrieved the fawn, and they have moved on.

If the fawn has not moved, you may check for dehydration by gently pinching the skin on the fawn’s back. If the skin snaps back to its original position within one or two seconds, the fawn is fine and should be left alone.

If the skin stays in the tented position, and the fawn seems lethargic, it is possible that the mother has not returned to feed it. An attempt should be made to see if the mother has been hit by a car or is incapacitated nearby.

2. I found a fawn in a dangerous place.  If a fawn is close to a road or near some other potential danger, the fawn may be picked up and moved a short distance away [generally less than 50 yards] to a safer location. Try to keep the fawn within eyesight of the original location.

3. I don’t want to be a “kidnapper”.  If you have picked up a healthy fawn that was found alone and mistaken for an orphan, it is best to try to return it to the same spot where you found it within 72 hours. The mother will continue to look for her baby during this time. The fawn should be placed back in the area where it was found and gently tapped on its back or on the top of its head [like the mother would do] to encourage it to lie down and stay until its mother returns.

4.   I found a fawn that is injured and/or I know for certain that its mother is dead.  If the fawn is injured, is severely dehydrated, or has fly eggs on it [fly eggs have the appearance of small grains of rice], or if you know for sure that the mother has been killed, you should contact a local wildlife organization or rehabilitator. You may call the Wildlife Center at 540.942.9453 for assistance.

Individuals without rehabilitation training and permits should never attempt to raise a baby deer and should especially avoid feeding cow’s milk to fawns. Despite best efforts, most deer hand-raised by private citizens will die or need to be euthanized. Fawns also commonly carry bacteria and parasites, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, both of which can infect humans.

The Wildlife Center was founded as an emergency room and hospital for wildlife in 1982. During its 30-year history, the Wildlife Center has cared for more than 60,000 animals, representing more than 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians from every corner of Virginia.

A primary goal of the Center is to “treat to release” – to restore patients to health and return as many as possible to the wild. The Center provides state-of-the-art medical care for the sick and injured, and sustained, quality foster care so that animals may be returned to the wild with the ability to survive, and thrive, in their native habitats. Additional information about the Wildlife Center is available at

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Note to the Press:  Photos of patients treated at the Wildlife Center, including White-tailed Deer fawns, are available. Please contact Randy Huwa at or 540.942.9453.

Additional information about fawn-kidnapping has been posted on the Center’s website, at

Also available through the Center’s website is a blog posting by a private citizen from Albemarle County who found a fawn in her yard –and what happened! That individual is also available for interviews.