On fawns and cubs

  • May. 16, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Submitted by James Hilgemann, Conservation Officer Service–There is a good chance in the next few weeks you will come across a lone fawn lying in the grass near the road or along a trail in the forest. On your return trip the fawn is still lying where you first found it, and still alone. Should you pack it in the car and take it home? Drop it off with the local Conservation officer? Good intentions, but the correct answer is definitely not. The fawn is probably not the orphan you think it is. In all likelihood, the doe is probably off in search of food and water, and she will be in close proximity to the fawn, though you may not see her. To produce enough milk for her fawn the doe requires a large volume of food, comprising leaves and grasses. It would not be unusual for the mother to leave and return five or six times daily to nurse and lick her fawn. Of course the doe may experience trouble herself and be delayed in her travels and return visits to her fawn.For the first two to four weeks, fawns are not strong enough to run well from predators. A natural defence mechanism is for the fawn to simply lay still. Its spotted coat also makes the fawn well camouflaged with its natural surroundings. In addition to this, the fawn is essentially odourless, having little or no body scent. By leaving the fawn alone, the doe is actually protecting it, because if the doe always stayed with her fawn, her scent could lead predators such as bear to it.Another reason to leave the fawn where you find it is that a doe can become very aggressive if she feels her fawn is being harmed and there have been documented cases of deer striking humans with their hooves which can inflict serious bodily harm.In addition, it is an offence under the BC Wildlife Act to be in possession of live or dead wildlife without a permit or approval.The best advice should you come across a fawn is to enjoy the moment and move on. If the fawn is seen alone for more than 24 hours, then contact the local Conservation Officer (toll free 1-877-952-7277), and provide a brief description and location of the animal. The same advice should be exercised for any bear cubs that you may come across. Keep in mind that the sow may very well be close by and will certainly act with aggression if she finds you near her cubs. This is the most dangerous encounter one may find in nature and avoidance is recommended.Also as a side note. With the birth of the fawns over the next month and their proximity to island highways and roads, road kills on fawns is a way of life. Of even greater concern is the foraging that takes place by scavengers such as eagles on the carrion roadside. Unfortunately, eagles will binge eat, and oftentimes be unable to fly away from approaching traffic, and as a consequence become casualties as well. So should you see eagles along the highway, slow down and exercise caution, giving the eagles a wide berth to enable them to fly away unharmed.

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