People should keep their distance and not disturb newborn fawns or other young wildlife as many animals are in the peak season for giving birth, the state Department of Environmental Conservation cautioned Tuesday.
It is not unusual to see a young bird crouched in the yard or a young rabbit in the flower garden, both apparently abandoned. Finding a fawn deer lying by itself is also fairly common. Many people assume that young wildlife found alone are helpless and need assistance for their survival. However, in nearly all cases this is a mistake, the DEC warns; typically, human interaction does more damage than good.
Those who see a fawn or other newborn wildlife should enjoy their encounter but keep it brief, maintain some distance and not attempt to touch the animal, the DEC says.
A fawn is hidden in a neighborhood in Saranac Lake in June 2011.
(Enterprise file photo — Mike Lynch)
Young wildlife quickly venture into the world on shaky legs or fragile wings. While most are learning survival from one or both parents, some normally receive little or no care. Often, wild animal parents stay away from their young when people are near. For all of these young animals, the perils of survival are a natural part of life in the wild, the DEC says.
White-tailed deer fawns present a good example of how human intervention with young wildlife can be problematic. Most fawns are born during late May and the first half of June. While fawns are able to walk shortly after birth, they spend most of their first several days lying still. During this period a fawn is also usually left alone by the doe except when nursing. People occasionally find a lone fawn and mistakenly assume it has been orphaned or abandoned, which is rare. Fawns should never be picked up, the DEC says. If human presence is detected by the doe, the doe may delay its next visit to nurse.
A fawn's best chance to survive is by being raised by the adult doe. Fawns nurse three to four times a day, usually for less than 30 minutes at a time, but otherwise the doe keeps her distance. This helps reduce the chance that she will attract a predator to the fawn. The fawn's protective coloration and ability to remain motionless all help it avoid detection by predators and people.
By the end of its second week, a fawn begins to move about more and spend more time with the doe. It also begins to eat grass and leaves. At about ten weeks of age, fawns are no longer dependent on milk, although they continue to nurse occasionally into the fall. During August, all deer begin to grow their winter coat and fawns lose their spots during this process.
Should you find a fawn or other young wildlife, "If You Care, Leave It There," the DEC says. It also warns against considering young wildlife as possible pets; this is illegal and is bad for the animal. Wild animals are not well suited for life in captivity and they may carry diseases that can be given to people.
For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about young wildlife, visit the DEC website at: www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6956.html.