By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital
A small fawn was one of the 59 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.
Hospital staff received many phone calls this past week regarding fawn sightings throughout Collier and south Lee counties. Each caller had encountered a fawn in their yard, believed it was orphaned, and didn’t know what to do.
One phone call came from a concerned gentleman in North Naples who had already called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for information about a fawn seen near the pool in his community. While he tried to relay important information from FWC to a group of people watching the fawn, no one was listening.
FWC said they would send law enforcement if the group didn’t disperse; still, no one listened. People allowed their dogs to get near the fawn and were clapping and cheering when the fawn tried to get up and escape from what it perceived as a threat to its life.
By the time von Arx Wildlife Hospital volunteers arrived on scene to try and protect the fawn, it had disappeared. We could only hope it hadn’t moved too far away so the mother would still be able to find her baby when she returned that evening.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
With so many inquiries regarding fawn sightings, it became obvious to hospital staff that most people have little understanding of normal deer behavior thus putting fawns at risk from unnecessary human interference.
Just because a fawn is seen alone doesn’t mean it is orphaned or abandoned. Mother deer hide their newborn fawns, typically in tall grass or near shrubs while they are foraging. Fawns wait, staying 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 natural vegetation so even though the fawns are tucked in the grass, they are still very visible.
It is imperative that people stay away so as not to frighten a fawn. Newborn fawns are unable to walk or stand well and will easily tire or possibly injure themselves if they try to flee. While newborn fawns appear vulnerable, they grow fast. Within days they 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 at 239–262-CARE. We will ask questions and have you text photos or video so we can assess the situation and determine the appropriate course of action. We understand seeing a fawn in the wild is precious and exciting but getting too close can truly endanger the fawn’s life.
Opportunities to Help
Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org 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.