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A fawn hides in thick brush waiting for its mother to return. Photo provided/Michael Summer


A deer fawn found alone in the woods has not been abandoned and should be left alone.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is spreading the word ahead of the peak season for newborn deer. Many people who come upon a solitary spotted fawn in the woods or along a roadway mistakenly assume the animal has been deserted by its mother and want to take the apparently helpless creature home to care for it. Young fawns like this have not been abandoned and are still in the care of a doe. 

The deer fawns begin daily movements with their mothers three to four weeks after birth (which occurs in South Carolina from May to June). Human handling and disturbance of fawns can cause a doe to shy away or even desert her offspring. Also, a bleating response by the fawn can summon nearby predators.

It's part of nature's plan for a doe to leave her fawn or fawns alone for their first few weeks of life. The reason for this unusual maternal action is that the fawn at this age is better protected away from the doe. The presence of the doe nearby would attract predators because the doe lacks the protective coloration of the fawn, and the older and larger doe has a much stronger odor.

A fawn that appears abandoned is merely awaiting a visit from its mother. A doe, after brief periods of feeding and grooming her fawn, will spend much of her day feeding and resting somewhat removed from her young. The fawn ordinarily stays bedded down as if sleeping, but will occasionally move short distances to new bedding sites.

The SCDNR said each spring and summer it receives many calls from people who have discovered "lost" deer. Young fawns are cute and cuddly, but if taken into captivity they grow into semi-tame adult deer that can become dangerous. It is also illegal to remove deer from the forest this time of year because it is not hunting season.

Adult buck deer, no matter how they were raised, are especially dangerous during the breeding season. Even does raised by humans are unpredictable.

Occasionally, "tame" deer seriously injure people and, in cases where the deer are a threat to humans, the deer sometimes have to be killed.