During the spring, you may find a fawn nestled alone in the grass when exploring our Northern Michigan outdoors. While you may think the fawn has been abandoned, it’s much more likely that the mother is nearby.

Because a newborn fawn is unable to keep up with its mother, it’s often left alone in an attempt to keep predators from finding them. Their spotted camouflage and instinct to lie still make it challenging for predators to see them. Fawns are also born with very little scent, so the mother leaves the area to make sure a predator doesn’t catch her scent.

“Many, many times the animal isn’t abandoned,” says Katie Keen, DNR wildlife outreach technician. “Instead, the animal is simply alone, which we think is odd because we keep our babies or children in our sight at all times. Wild animals do not do that.”

A doe will return periodically to nurse her fawn and is usually not far away. Soon the fawn will be strong enough to keep up with its mother and has a better chance of outrunning a predator.

If you find a fawn and you’ve actually seen that the mother was killed or injured, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or the Department of Natural Resources. Here’s a list of Michigan licensed rehabilitators.

3 Rules to Remember if You Find a Fawn

1. Do not touch a baby animal in the wild.

“They survive just fine without a need for intervention. Enjoy that moment and leave. They may seem harmless, but they have teeth and nails that can scratch and break the skin. Wild animals have diseases and parasites, and you don’t want that for you or your family or pet,” Katie says.

2. Do not feed a wild animal.

“The food reward is one of the strongest tools for training and leads to habits and trouble down the road. Animals have great memories and if a food reward is given, that animal will continue to return and maybe bring their families or friends,” Katie says.

3. Do not bring a wild animal into your home.

“This is illegal. Wild animals belong to everyone who lives in the state of Michigan. They are not to be someone’s pet. For people, pets and even the safety of wild animals, keep wildlife wild,” Katie says.

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Photo(s) by Michigan Department of Natural Resources