How to Rescue an Abandoned Fawn
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How to Rescue an Abandoned Fawn

Learn what to do if you find a newborn fawn in the forest or meadow. What to do when you find an abandoned fawn. How to bottle raise a fawn. Who to phone when you find a baby deer. Can I keep a fawn that I have found if there is no mother deer? What to feed a baby deer. How to care for an abandoned fawn.

A fawn is a baby deer, every spring and summer people come across a fawn nesting in the woods and take it upon themselves to “rescue” the little one. Many of these “rescues” end in tragedy, with the fawn dying, either while in the care of the rescuer or shortly after its “release” as it never learned how to survive in the wild.  Further more, many fawns do not need rescuing, they are only waiting for their mother to return.

When you see a Fawn it Probably is NOT Abandoned

One mistake people make is to assume a fawn was abandoned by its mother. Mother deer will leave their fawn for hours while they go off to feed nearby. Mother deer (does) do this so predators do not see a vulnerable fawn when they see her. The mother returns hours later, and the fawn is cared for. So... if you see a fawn alone in the forest do not assume it was abandoned.

young fawn

photo source

Ideally when you spot a fawn take a GPS location of the fawn and make a note to check the following day. Or you can at that point phone your local Fish and Wildlife Department, or Wildlife Rehabilitation center, and mention to them finding the fawn, in case somebody else reported it days earlier.

The fawn is likely alone if after a few days it is still in the same location and seen to be failing to thrive, or wandering around.

Please note that you should never touch the fawn. While it is a myth that mother animals abandon their young under such situations; being handled, or even being approached, may cause stress to the fawn. It may even panic and flee, making it impossible for the mother to find.

Some people have taken fawns and realized they made a mistake, and have had the mother reclaim the fawn even two days later.

Be aware in most areas it is illegal to hamper with wildlife - call a professional or licensed person!

fawn in stinging nettles

photo source - This fawn is tucked in the Stinging Nettles, a plant deer will actually eat.

If the Mother is Dead

In some situations it is clear that the fawn is alone, as when the mother was hit by a car, or otherwise found dead nearby. In these cases the fawn should be carefully caught. Catching a fawn is not always easy, and well minded people may just scare it deeper into the forest and not be able to recover it. Therefore the best plan is to simply keep it away from the roadway, and call a professional.

You can call a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Fish and Wildlife Department, a Zoo, SPCA, or veterinarian in your area – who will direct you where to call further if they are not able to help.

It is very unlikely that you would encounter a newborn fawn unless the mother died while giving birth, however it is worth noting that newborns require Colostrum, which is their mothers first milk. It contains the antibodies needed to keep the fawn healthy and strong.

If for some reason the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center cannot come to collect the fawn immediately and you must undertake its care temporarily the following steps should be taken: Be aware that you must report finding the fawn first, as in most areas caring for wildlife without a license, or permit, is illegal.

A fawn should never be given cows milk, rather it should be fed lamb, or goat, milk replacement formula. If a newborn (the umbilical cord will be wet), it will need the colostrum in the first 18 hours but it does not require this as its first drink. A fawn should be fed in the same way one would feed an orphaned lamb, goat kid, or calf, however the hole in the end of the nipple may need to be enlarged. With frequent feedings if it is under a week old (every 3-4 hours), and fewer if it is older (every 4-6 hours).

A fawn will need a bowl of hard packed earth, or to be kept in a small enclosure with some dirt, as it needs to lick this for trace minerals which aid in digestion. It will eat grass, leaves, hay, and other things.

picture of a fawn

photo source

One Caution: Hand raised fawns rarely survive when released into the wild. They have no fear of humans, and hand raised bucks in particular may be aggressive, and will have no survival skills in the wild. Often hand raised wildlife is placed into a zoo, or other protective setting.

Further Reading

How to Bottle Raise a Baby Goat

Additional resources:

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Comments (5)

Who can resist such a cute animal. Great tips about treating a fawn when seeing it abandoned.

Very interesting. Such precious pictures. It's sad we'd even have to think about this.

what an interesting article, thank you


Solid info. Thanks.


Solid info. Thanks.