Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fragile fawns equipped to face dangers

May 11. 2013 1:46PM

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At first I thought it was someone’s overgrown chihuahua on the lose.

Earlier this week I watched a tiny creature jump onto a Dorrance Township backroad and carelessly amble toward my truck as I slowed down.

As it came closer it quickly became apparent that the animal was not a dog but a newborn whitetail fawn, spots and all.

I stopped and watched as the fawn noticed my vehicle and instantly became nervous. On wobbly legs it maneuvered itself across the road toward an embankment on the other side.

This is going to be trouble, I thought.

But with surprisingly agility, the fawn jumped over the embankment and landed on all four legs before darting into the woods to an awaiting mother.

I appreciated the encounter — my first fawn sighting of the year — and also wondered about how vulnerable the tiny deer was as it tried to gain its footing on the road. With ease, I could’ve scooped the fawn up and taken it home. I’d never consider doing such a thing, however. Not only would it be illegal, but unnecessary as well.

Still, the encounter proved to be a good example of just how tempting, and easy, it is to some people to pick up newborn fawns and take them home.

Some people do it thinking it would be neat to have a pet fawn, while others believe they are doing the animal a favor since the mother isn’t visible.

In most cases, such as this one, the adult female deer is nearby waiting for its fawn. I knew this was the case with the fawn that I saw considering how it made a beeline into the woods like it knew where to go.

There’s no need to interfere.

Each year during fawning season - which typically runs from early May into June, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northeast Region Office receives dozens of calls regarding alleged abandoned fawns. The calls peak around Memorial Day weekend — the height of fawning season.

PGC spokesman Bill Williams said it’s common to come across a fawn without the adult doe nearby, but that doesn’t always mean there’s a problem.

“If they don’t see the doe right with the fawn, they think there’s something wrong,” Williams said. “The best thing to do is let it be. The doe is usually nearby.”

The small fawn I spotted on the roadway several days ago also served as an example of just how fragile and vulnerable a young deer can be during its first days of life. It wouldn’t take much effort for a coyote, black bear or even a pet dog to bring down a newborn fawn.

And predators aren’t the only threat.

Sometimes, nature itself is a danger as well.

Williams said a fawn was brought to the region office in Dallas on Thursday. The fawn was dead, he said, and the person who brought it in said it drowned in a stream.

“The doe crossed the stream, and the fawn was in the water struggling,” Williams said. “He tried to rescue it.”

Sure, the dangers are numerous and significant, but newborn fawns have a couple of defense mechanisms.

The white spots on their coat allow them to blend in with their surroundings as they lie motionless to avoid detection. A fawn does produce scent, but it is minimal which further helps avoid detection.

Perhaps the best defense mechanism of a newborn fawn is it grows up fast. In a few days a fawn transforms from a creature with wobbly legs to one that can dart through the woods with speed and agility.

Sure, newborn fawns are fragile and vulnerable, but they’re not helpless.

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