Recently I decided that our upper meadow needed an early mowing to cut the tall grass back and remove the sneak factor from the local red foxes that are paying too much attention to my poultry. They really are getting to be annoying.
Sitting up on the Kubota I reminded myself to keep a sharp eye for fawns in the high grass.
Fact is, I will not contemplate mowing the other meadow down by the creek until late July to give fawns time to get some age and mobility about them. That thick and shaded bottom always attracts a doe or two who like to leave their tiny fawns hidden in the tall grass.
I was also thinking about the old days on the game warden job and how frustrating it was to deal with the public and the fascination with fawn deer during the spring. So, I figured to do my former coworkers a favor and attempt to head off some of the problems.
For two reasons, June seems to be the worst month for people picking up allegedly abandoned fawns. First, it seems to be about the peak for fawning in this area and, second, is that it is raspberry time and that sends a lot of people out in the woods with bowls and buckets in their hands.
Berry hunters seek out the thick meadow edges and raspberry tangles that are exactly the kind of cover in which does like to hide their fawns for the day. It is not at all uncommon at this time of year to be walking along, filling a bucket with berries and swatting gnats, when you look down and see a fawn curled up at the end of your boots.
Literally it is right there, all spotted and curled, not much bigger than a volleyball, lying perfectly still. Many times your first thought is that the critter is dead, but then you see that it is breathing and those big eyes are kind of rolled up and looking at you.
This is where the fawn’s problem often begins.
“It did not move for five minutes so I just knew something was wrong with the poor thing”, is often given as an explanation by a well meaning person who has picked up a fawn in the woods.
Well, no. It did not move because it is young, camouflaged and hoping that you will just move off and leave it in the tall grass where it is perfectly comfortable and, by the way, was taking an afternoon nap. Now it has endured a ride on the backseat of a car and is trying to stand on the slick linoleum in that well meaning person’s kitchen while a little dog goes crazy in the next room and it is scared. This is not really what anyone wants, especially the fawn.
The other excuse for picking up a fawn is that the mother was not around and therefore had abandoned the baby. Wrong again. Momma is not far away, keeping her distance from the fawn except at nursing times to avoid attracting the attention of wild predators.
She knows perfectly well that the fawns coloration and near lack of scent are its best defenses, at least until it gets some age and acquires that legendary whitetail speed and agility.
So, just leave it be. Use your cell phone to take a picture of the little thing and then just move on down that fence row picking berries. The deer will be fine, in fact it will be much better off than if you picked it up.
There might be a time when you see an obvious road-killed doe with some fawns milling around. This is a good time to call the local DNR office and let them decide how to best handle the situation.
Possessing a deer during the closed season is illegal. In fact, possession of a live deer is illegal under most circumstances anyway. That means you could pay a fine for having a fawn.
Raising a deer in a neighborhood causes problems. They eat the neighbor’s roses, head-butt the little kids and otherwise become a nuisance that can be a whole lot of trouble.
Just leave them alone. They really are fine right there in the grass.
Dave Long is a retired West Virginia natural resources police officer and a frequent contributor to the Outdoors page.