Fawn Abandoned By Mother

February 18, 2022

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is located and part of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Open 365 days a year, 8am-8pm. Located at 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, FL. Call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance.

A white-tailed deer fawn was among the fifty-eight animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a burrowing owl, a river otter, an eastern bluebird, a turkey vulture and a Florida softshell turtle.

Abandoned Fawn on the Golf Course

Onlookers rescued this fawn on a golf course in North Naples; the fawn was seen with its mother and another fawn. When the doe moved on with one fawn, “our” fawn was left behind. The report that came in to the hospital was that the fawn was limping and had walked up to a group of golfers.

The fawn weighed just over five pounds and was visibly thin; increased respiratory effort was evident. The fawn was favoring her left hind leg and had fresh blood on her abdomen.

Measurements taken indicated the fawn was less than one week of age.

Staff settled the fawn in a recovery enclosure to rest and closely monitored her behavior. After an hour, staff offered the fawn a bottle of dilute milk replacement formula specifically designed for white-tailed deer, which the fawn eagerly nursed. 

Over the course of several days, the strength and amount of formula the fawn received increased as she made daily weight gains.

The fawn continues to gain strength. It will be months before the fawn is grown and old enough for release.

Please visit the Conservancy’s Facebook Fundraiser and/or participate in our website fundraiser that will help cover the costs associated with raising injured and orphaned white-tailed deer fawns.

Find a Fawn?

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital received multiple reports of fawn sightings this past week making it clear there is a lack of understanding regarding normal deer behavior.

Because a fawn is seen alone doesn’t mean it is orphaned or abandoned.

During a fawn’s first two weeks of life, mother deer hide their newborn fawns, typically in tall grass or shrubs, while they are foraging. Fawns wait and stay hidden until their mother returns, usually at dusk.

The problem we are seeing is that yards in gated communities have very little tall grass or shrubs, so even though the fawns are tucked in the grass, they are still very visible. 

It is imperative that people stay away and not frighten a fawn. Newborn fawns are unable to walk or stand well and will easily tire or can injure themselves if they try to flee humans (which a fawn perceives as a predator). While newborn fawns appear vulnerable, they grow fast. Within two weeks, fawns are strong enough to follow their mothers, can run from predators and no longer spend time alone.

Please, before approaching any baby wild animal, especially a fawn, call the wildlife hospital for guidance. Staff will ask questions to assess the situation and determine the appropriate course of action. Unnecessarily getting too close to a healthy fawn can truly endanger the fawn’s life.

Recent Releases

Two eastern screech owls, three marsh rabbits, four royal terns, seven brown pelicans, two eastern cottontails, two double-crested cormorants, three grey squirrels and four American white pelicans were released this past week. 

The American white pelican release was an amazing event never experienced before at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

White pelicans aren’t a common admission, so to have four white pelicans rehabilitating at one time was unique. The four white pelicans were released as a group after months of care.

Thanks to Collette Lauzau (Col) Avian Specialist, Sr. Laboratory Technician at Rookery Bay, Rochelle Streker, Audubon Florida’s Southwest Florida Shorebird Manager and Carlos Escarra (the boater who rescued two of the white pelicans).

Col and Carlos provided boats to take the four white pelicans and staff from the von Arx Wildlife Hospital to the release site within Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. 

Col and Rochelle knew locations where large flocks of white pelicans are frequently observed.

The release team scouted two locations; while no large flocks of white pelicans were present that day, there was a group of four white pelicans near the Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area. As “our” four white pelicans took flight, they circled back after spotting the group of four, landed in the water and swam over to join the flock.

Visit the Conservancy’s Facebook page to view a video of the white pelican release.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website to learn about the work done by staff and volunteers at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

The hospital has a need for volunteers to help with inside and outdoor animal care and other support areas; please consider getting involved. Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are vital and help us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.