Wildlife Rehabilitation - Care for Orphaned or Injured Wild Animals

What to do with a baby deer I found?

Fawn Rehabilitation - One hundred years ago, it was uncommon to see a deer, let alone find a fawn. Now, deer are so overpopulated, the instance of orphaned babies is extremely high. Mother deer (doe) often wander and feed while their young fawns are curled up in a bedded area. The fawn at this age is completely scentless, and instinctually remains completely still until its mother returns. The lack of identifying scent, and the ability to stay hidden from predators, has helped the deer community thrive. Unfortunately, because human roads often intersect wildlife habitats, deer fatalities by car hits are very common.

If you have found an infant deer, make sure it is really abandoned! Almost all wild animals leave their young for a period of time in order to feed or gather more nutrients for the baby. A doe will often leave her fawn for an entire night, returning to the area she chose to bed down in during the heat of the day. If you have located a fawn, leave it alone for at least six hours, though a fawn can wait up to three days before it actively begins to search for food. If you return and the fawn is shivering, has a boney look, or appears stressed, then you may intervene.

Okay, I’ve got my superhero cape on, now what? Call a wildlife rehabilitator. Fawns will grow into deer, and a deer is a large enough animal that the average household can’t easily manage it.

Before you attempt to pick up the fawn, you will need a substantial blanket or comforter. Even though the little animal is light enough to be picked up by a child, the fawn’s legs are impressively strong and can easily cause injury. It is not natural for a fawn to be lifted up by a human, so expect some kicking.

To find a deer rehabber in your area, click on my nationwide directory of wildlife rehabbers or do an online search for one in your area. In the meantime, you can still care for the deer as advised below.

The average temperature for a baby deer is between 100 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the fawn wrapped to ward off kicking, enlist some aid from another family member and take the fawn’s rectal temperature every hour until you are getting consistent readings. A heating pad or pair of warm bottles can be used to raise the baby’s temperature. In a pinch, you can also throw a few blankets in the dryer and use them once they are nice and warm. Be careful not to overheat the fawn.

Remember the Golden Rule: Hydration first! Administering any kind of substantial protein food can be detrimental to any dehydrated animal. If this is an orphaned fawn, it is safe to assume some degree of dehydration is present. An electrolyte replacer, such as children’s Pedialyte, can be given by mouth to rehydrate the newborn. If Pedialyte is not available, sugar water can be used as an emergency substitute.

When the wildlife rehabilitator takes over, he or she will test the fawn’s hydration before administering the preferred milk substitute—goat’s milk. Never feed ANY wild animal cow’s milk. Serious gastrointestinal complications can occur.

How is hydration evaluated? By “tenting” a section of skin between the shoulder blades, hydration can be assessed. If the skin goes back down immediately, the animal is well hydrated. If the skin remains tented, more electrolytes are needed. This mechanism is call “skin turgor”.

Once hydrated, the fawn can be bottle-fed goat’s milk until it is old enough to forage on its own. Fawns should be allowed to eat between six and seven times a day for the first four weeks of life. Cries for more food should be ignored, as a fawn will continue to eat until it becomes ill.

Most rehabilitators try to raise fawn in groups, to eliminate the chance of bonding with the human handler. Wild animals need to maintain a healthy fear of humans for their release back into nature to be successful. Feeding fawns off remote feeders also helps prevent bonding.

Most fawns are raised in indoor enclosures where they can be kept at a constant temperature and protected from predators. When the fawns are old enough to forage on their own, they are graduated to outdoor pens. Eventually, these pens are left open during the day with the young deer closed in at night. When the rehabilitator is comfortable with the level of natural, outside activity from the fawn, it will be released into a secure area.

The average cost of raising a baby fawn is five hundred dollars. Depending on the area of the country, this cost could be slightly lower or significantly higher. If a wildlife rehabilitator has taken the time to come to your aid, consider offering some supplies, money, or volunteer help to assist their cause.

Here are some other advice articles for wildlife rehabilitation:
What to do with a baby bat I found?
What to do with a baby deer I found?
What to do with a baby fox I found?
What to do with a baby opossum I found?
What to do with a baby raccoon I found?
What to do with a baby hawk or eagle I found?
What to do with a baby reptile I found?
What to do with a baby mouse or rat I found?
What to do with a baby songbird I found?
What to do with a baby squirrel I found?

Please be kind to wildlife! Our wild animals are intelligent, and believe it or not, they definitely have emotions!
If you have any questions about this wildlife rehabilitation website, just email me at dseeveld@gmail.com