Apr 28, 2014

Fawn reunions

It's that time of year! Baby wild animals are all about. 

Occasionally, little ones get separated from their mothers. More often than not, a quick helping hand is all they need to get safely on their way.

On April 17th, Amanda was taking a morning walk on Vienna Road in Aptos when she saw a female mule deer crossing the road with its fawn trailing close behind. 

The doe scaled a dirt embankment and disappeared into the brush. Her fawn, though, couldn't make it up the steep slope.

As Amanda approached to keep the baby out of the road, the newborn fawn did what it's supposed to do - it dropped to the ground and laid still. This is an instinctive response to the approach of a potential predator. A behavior they lose as they get older. 

The fawn laid still while Amanda phoned WES for help.

WES founder, Rebecca Dmytryk took the call:
We have to be really cautious about giving advice over the phone. In fact, instead of giving instruction, I usually just describe what we would do if we were there. 
I felt this was a time-sensitive situation, so I walked Amanda through a hypothetical fawn reunion, including a strong warning about the mother. Does can be extremely protective of their babies and have been known to attack people. The key to staying safe is being large and many - a doe is less likely to take on a "pack". 
We ended the call with Amanda very confident that she could safely place the baby in a good spot for mom to retrieve it. 
I called her back a short while later to check on the status of the fawn. 
Heeding our warning about the doe, Amanda got someone to help her get the baby above the slope and situated in a quiet spot where its mom could find it.


Then, two days later, WES received a similar call about a fawn found crossing a road. 

The caller, Nicole, described seeing the fawn from her kitchen window as it was crossing the quiet rural road. She said it circled a few times then laid down on the shoulder of the road. 

Nicole placed traffic cones on either side of the baby and then backed off, hoping to see the mother retrieve her little one. 

Sure enough, the doe appeared from the brush on the opposite side of the road, but just for a few seconds.

After calling WES and hearing an explanation of the reuniting process, Nicole and her husband felt confident that they could safely place the baby near where they'd seen the mom.

They set the fawn in dappled light, facing the forest where the mother was last seen.

As instructed, they stayed away from the area all day. At dusk they decided to check on the baby, and it was gone.

About 100' away was the doe, lying calmly in the grass - a good sign that the fawn had reunited with its mother.

Then, three days later, while WES responders were handling a fawn emergency in Boulder Creek, Todd Stosuy with the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter responded to a report of a fawn stuck in a large, cement-lined trough. 

The fawn was a week old, according to staff at the hospital's education center. They'd been keeping track of doe and her baby from the second floor of their building, which overlooks the wooded parcel.

Todd was on scene in minutes. 

The fawn was very mobile, running from end to end, trying to leap out of the pit. Don Derkx, Safety Officer for the hospital, jumped in to help herd the terrified baby deer to one end of the enclosure. As he neared, the fawn dropped. Don used a blanket to cover it and then lifted it to safety. 

The fawn was immediately transported to Native Animal Rescue (NAR) where it was examined for any injuries and found to be in good shape, which meant, if at all possible, it should be reunited with its mother.

Whenever possible, wild babies should be raised by wild parents. The process of reuniting and wild-fostering (fostering a baby into an unrelated family unit) can be a painstaking process, but well worth it in the end.

That evening, just before sunset, WES responders Duane Titus, Rebecca Dmytryk, and Jessica Reyes returned to the location with the fawn and used sounds to draw the mother into view. 

They first tried calling from inside the wooded lot where the fawn was rescued, but there was no sign of the doe. They walked the service road to a grassy area and a deer trail leading into oak woodland. They tried calling, again, and again.

Finally, after about 15 minutes, the doe appeared from the brush. She stood motionless in tall grass. Anxious, and tentative. Ready to bolt away. 

The team brought the baby into view, carrying it up the path to the deer trail. Its bleating drew the doe's attention and she watched as the baby was placed in the grass.

As soon as its hooves touched ground, the fawn shot away - and the doe took off in the opposite direction. 

While it was not the reunion they'd hoped for, the team left feeling pretty confident the doe "connected" with the fawn and would retrieve it after dark.

The doe will not approach her baby if a predator is nearby, in fact, they instinctively stay away from their young except to nurse, so as not to draw the attention of predators.

Alone in the grass is normal for a fawn. A newborn fawn gives off very little scent and its spotty, mottled coat blends in with the environment. If it is still, it will not be seen.

The next day, Jessica returned to the site. She observed a doe on the woodland trail where the fawn had been placed. There was no sign of the fawn, and the doe had not been seen on the service road or the PG&E property. A good sign that the reunion was a success. 

Unfortunately, the fawn was not marked for identification purposes. If you'd like to add a pack of non-toxic all-weather livestock markers to our WES responders' supplies, visit our Amazon Wish List, HERE.

For more on the fawn rescued in Boulder Creek, click HERE.

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