Don’t touch that fawn

  • May. 28, 2012 6:00 p.m.

Let sleeping fawns lie. That’s the message from local Conservation Officer James Hilgemann as baby deer make their annual appearance all over Haida Gwaii. It’s relatively common to see newborn fawns lying near the highway, Mr. Hilgemann said, and no one needs to “rescue” them. “It’s usually not the orphan you think it is,” he said. Deer leave their offspring alone for long stretches of time while they search for food and water. They usually return five or six times a day to lick and nurse the little ones, but can be gone for as long as 24 hours. Mr. Hilgemann said newborn deer have no scent, so it’s actually a good survival strategy for the mother to stay away. Newborn deer are also not strong enough to run until they are about four weeks old. “They’re scent-free and they’re camouflaged and they just blend into the environment,” Mr. Hilgemann said. If you see a fawn lying right on the highway, he said, you can pick it up and leave it by the side of the road, close to where it was so the mother will be able to find it when she returns. If you know that the mother has been injured or killed, you can leave the fawn alone (deer are nowhere close to being an endangered species and it will provide food for eagles and other predators), or you can call 1-877-952-RAPP to report it, Mr. Hilgemann said. The conservation office does get a couple of calls about abandoned fawns every year on Haida Gwaii. Mr. Hilgemann said he will attempt to rescue the fawn and place it with one of several local families who have goats and can provide the right kind of milk. This is also the time of year to watch out for bear cubs. The most dangerous animal scenario that can be encountered here is a mother bear with cubs, Mr. Hilgemann said, and islanders out hiking or fishing should be very careful. “Make lots of noise and be bear aware,” he said. “If you see a family unit, back up and get out of the area.”