It is common knowledge that a doe will start having her fawn or fawns in the spring. With that, it is not all that uncommon for a person to encounter one. You may find one while turkey hunting, fishing or even just driving down the road. I have heard friends and family members talk of encounters and in some cases have friends that has raised a few of them that were found abandoned. Not all but in most of the cases, the fawn will grow up somewhat domesticated and does not stand much of a chance in the wild because most likely it has lost its fear of humans, K9’s, and life outside the woods in general. I have seen many fawns over the years but they were all at a later stage in their growth and were walking and moving around fine. I would say most of the fawns I encountered were months old. So I never really never had to debate in my mind on what to do if I found one abandoned or in danger. That all changed one afternoon in May.
It was a Saturday in May in the evening and I was taking a nap. I had worked earlier that day and decided to take a nap before going out to try and roost some turkeys. I was awoken by a phone call from my youngest brother Tyler. At first it was just the normal “hey, what are you doing?”, but I could tell he seemed nervous or anxious in the sound of his voice. He then tells me on his way home he spotted a fawn beside the highway, just laying beside the road staring as the cars pass. We talked for a minute so I could try to understand or at least in my mind make the determination if I should intervene. I decided that we should intervene, although I will admit I did not think very long before making the decision. I told him to pick up the fawn and I would meet him at his house.
After arriving I remember my first reaction being how small the fawn was. I am not an expert of fawn growth but the fawn to me appeared less than 24 hours old. It also appeared weak and you could tell the stress of the situation was making it worse. I take the fawn out the sun and drive it home. There I laid it in a dog kennel with a blanket. My first priority at the moment was trying to let it rest and see about getting some fluids in her(we checked sex at my house and she was a female). I did some online research and found that goat milk replacement was the best thing for a young fawn. So I headed down to Tractor Supply to buy some along with a bottle and some nipples.
After I arrived back home I mixed up some milk in a bottle according to the directions and attempted to feed her. She refused. I knew that this was not a good situation and it wasn’t until that time that I started to contemplate if I done the right thing or not. Luckily I have a friend that raises sheep so I gave him a call. He showed up with his toolbox full of syringes and meds for livestock and tried to evaluate her. We tried and it was obvious she was not going to take a bottle right now. She started to become lethargic and at that point I decided there is no other alternative but force feeding her with syringes. After we gave her several syringes of milk, she became active and seemed to be taking the fluids well and our hopes were starting to rise. Once things settled and she seemed to be recovering, I realized that I was doing something totally illegal and depending on who you ask unethical. I have always abided and respected the law but I realized when the law of the land goes against my own personal ethics(mine being to save an animals life and at least give it a chance in the wild) it becomes a difficult choice and not always the right one. The one thing that I didn’t realize was that later my perspective and ethics would change in a matter of minutes.
I knew that the only chance the fawn had to survive was to take her to my Mom and Step Dad’s house. They have many acres of fenced in land along with a large fenced in front yard. They also breed and raise Labrador Retrievers so I knew that was the best option for the fawn. The next day my girlfriend and myself took to the fawn to my Mom’s and I leave her with the syringes and milk. We put her in the front yard and let her settle in. After a few hours she seemed to get a little more comfortable. She would walk around and bleat for her mother then she would walk over to me where I would rub her and pat her like a dog. Then she would run away from me and begin to bleat for her mother some more. You could tell she was very confused. We ate supper and I left for home knowing that she was in good hands. My Mom watched her through the night and contacted me early that next morning to tell me she has took the bottle and has been feeding very well.
I got up that next morning and tried to get back to doing what I was doing before I had taken in the fawn which is to find some turkeys. I went to a local WMA and hunted hard the whole morning with not hearing the first gobbler or no signs of turkeys at all. Luckily for me the WMA is only minutes from my Mom’s house and with them at work I decided to go check on the fawn. I am not an emotional person at all but when I got there and seen the fawn I couldn’t help but feel extremely guilty and have this huge weight on my conscious.
The fawn was laid out in the shrubbery of my Mom’s front yard. She was barely breathing but breathing none the less. I spoke to her and got no reaction. Her head was laying on the ground and her body was lifeless other than her breathing motion and the occasional flinch. It is hard to put into writing what I saw but just know that no matter your expertise of animals you would know this one was not going to make it. I picked her up to take her inside and at the exact moment I picked her up I felt her heart stop and she took her last breath with me holding her.
We never named her or anything like that. I had no intentions of domesticating her. My intentions were to get her healthy and strong and possibly tag and release her onto our hunting property and give her a shot at a life in the wild. It is a contradictory and visceral feeling to know that if I had never had any contact with this same deer and ran into her during deer season I would have happily taken her life to put meat in the freezer yet I feel guilty for her dying in my care. My perspective now is that this deer did not die the way it was meant to die. It was not meant to die in the front lawn of a persons house. Some could say that would be a better death than being eating by a coyote and I wouldn’t argue with that.
We as people only think about dying from a human point of view and yeah, I would rather die in peace in my yard than be eaten. I am a Christian but I think about the Vikings and their Pagan belief that if a warrior dies with a sword in his hand, he will reach Valhalla in the afterlife. So, a Viking that dies in the manicured shrubbery of a persons home would surely be doomed. I see it now as this deer should have had natural selection to predict her future and not me intervening. Regardless of how you “feel” my suggestion is to let the fawn remain where they are in hopes that the mother may return and if she doesn’t then just know that she has made the conscious decision that by putting her life in danger to recover her fawn would undermine her being able to have anymore fawns which in turn undermines the deer population as a whole. I should have called the State Fish and Game and reported it. Most likely they would have removed her from beside the road set her in some cover and possibly check back on her a day or so to see if she is still there. Though it may have felt good for a moment to think of myself as a savior of wildlife, it was short lived and ill thought out. For any wildlife in need contact your State Fish and Game, besides that’s why we pay taxes and buy hunting license for them to handle these matters with the wildlife’s well being as their priority.
Last modified: June 2, 2020