Fawn reunited with her mother

January 2, 2024

A white-tailed deer fawn and an anhinga were among the fifty-five animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a brown thrasher, a black-and-white warbler, a great blue heron, a Brazilian free-tailed bat and an American alligator.

White-Tailed Deer Fawn Reunited with Mother

A resident in northeast Naples called the von Arx Wildlife Hospital early one morning reporting she was on her way to the hospital with a white-tailed deer fawn. The resident had seen the fawn standing in the same spot in her yard, near the edge of a pond, for over an hour with no adult deer in the area. The weather was rainy and cold the previous night with drizzle continuing into the morning causing great concern for the fawn’s welfare. 

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff monitor a white-tailed deer fawn while trying to reunite the fawn with its mother.

While the fawn’s rescuer mentioned the fawn was cold and lethargic when picked up, the fawn was bleating, kicking, and very stressed when handled during his physical exam. The exam revealed the fawn was in good body condition and at a good weight with no apparent external injuries. Staff settled the fawn into a quiet, warm, dark recovery area at the hospital and discussed the best course of action. 

Most people are unaware that mother white-tailed deer do not stay with their newborn fawns during the day making it very common for people to intervene and end up “kidnapping” a healthy fawn because they don’t see the mom.  Most times, the fawn just needs to be returned to the area where found until the doe returns at dusk to retrieve her baby. 

The situation with this fawn wasn’t a straightforward case of well-intentioned “kidnapping” of a healthy baby wild animal. The rain and cold temperatures adversely affected the fawn. The heavy rains had flooded the area of grass where he had been hiding resulting in the fawn being cold and shocky when found.

It made sense for the rescuer to be concerned and think the fawn needed assistance. 

Staff considered multiple options. We determined the fawn had recovered from the negative effects of the weather and since the rain had passed, we decided the fawn should be returned to reunite with its mother as soon as possible. 

The rescuer showed hospital staff exactly where she found the fawn. Staff tried to get the fawn to lie down in the grass, but he would not stay put. Every time staff stepped away, the fawn jumped up, nibbled on grass and followed staff when they tried to walk away. This went on for over thirty minutes. Staff would settle the fawn in the grass, move away, he’d jump up, graze and the process would start all over.

Concerned the baby would not stay still, hospital staff decided to offer the fawn some water to see if that would help the fawn feel satiated enough to lie down and rest. One staff member stayed with the fawn while the other went to the car to get some water. 

When a staff member returned to the yard with the water, the fawn got spooked and started running back down the yard near the pond. Hospital staff strategically placed themselves to keep the fawn from running into the pond when suddenly the fawn dropped to the ground and laid his head flat into the grass – the behavior and posture a fawn should take to avoid detection by a predator. Hospital staff slowly backed away and watched. The fawn never moved or raised his head. This was exactly what the fawn needed to do until the doe returned at dusk.

The fawn’s rescuer called the hospital and reported their motion sensor camera picked up an image of a doe walking through their yard around 7 p.m. that night and when the rescuer checked the area around her home the following morning, the fawn was gone. The reunion was a success. 

It is imperative to call the wildlife hospital before taking action if you encounter a young animal. Assessing a situation before taking action provides staff the information needed to make the best decision possible without causing undue stress on the animal.

Surprisingly, many species of wildlife are breeding and raising young even though it’s winter and there will be cooler temperatures for the next few months. Recent admissions to the wildlife hospital include nestling eastern cottontails, marsh rabbits, opossums and raccoons. Soon, great horned owls, eastern screech owls, and bald eagles will be raising their offspring as well.

Call the wildlife hospital for information on breeding habits of native wildlife if you believe you have found an active nest. Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff will gladly answer questions to ensure only animals in need of assistance are brought to the hospital for care.

Anhinga Shot in Big Cypress National Preserve

The anhinga was rescued on the side of a remote road in Big Cypress National Park.

A physical exam and radiographs performed upon admission to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital revealed the anhinga had a fractured left wing. The anhinga had been shot. Due to the severity of the fracture, the only option for the anhinga was humane euthanasia. While not the outcome anyone hoped for, staff found solace that the anhinga was no longer suffering and starving as she struggled to survive the injury and cruelty inflicted on her by the shooter.

A radiograph reveals an anhinga sustained a fractured wing after being shot in Big Cypress National Preserve. The injury was so severe the anhinga had to be euthanized.

It is beyond heartbreaking to know the anhinga was a gunshot victim in such a wild, remote area like Big Cypress National Preserve. All native birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to intentionally harm a bird, its nest, eggs, etc. While there may be a legal hunting season for some species of birds, shooting the anhinga broke both state and federal laws. 

If you see someone shoot a bird or you know someone involved in this illegal activity, please report them to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. You can remain anonymous. Research shows there is a direct link between acts of cruelty to animals and violence toward humans; it is important to take cruelty toward animals seriously.

Recent Releases

A common loon, three eastern cottontails, five red-shouldered hawks, a Florida softshell turtle, a common ground dove, a broad-winged hawk, two raccoons, two laughing gulls, a merlin, an eastern screech owl, and a mourning dove were released this past week. 

Special Thanks 

Camaron Markley, Wildlife Hospital Volunteer and VP of the local Gulf Coast Chapter of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) organized a donation collection as a way to support our wildlife rehabilitation efforts. Chapter members attending the yearly holiday party brought donations from the von Arx Wildlife Hospital Wish List, enough donations to fill Cam’s car. Thank you to Cam, Chapter President, Shannon Huber, and all the generous members of the Gulf Coast Chapter of HFTP for your generosity. Every donation makes a tremendous impact on all we do to help injured, sick and orphaned wildlife in need.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time, donations, and memberships are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is the Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239-262-2273 or see conservancy.org.