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Leave Baby Wildlife Alone: Those fawns don't need your help

One of thousands of Mule Deer fawns lying about Central Oregon these days. Please, leave them alone!Editor's note: Some folks didn't recognize Jim Anderson's column


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One of thousands of Mule Deer fawns lying about Central Oregon these days. Please, leave them alone!Editor's note: Some folks didn't recognize Jim Anderson's column last week as a bit of naturalist humor because editors at the Source swapped the photo that served as his punch line. So if the piece on mushrooms left you scratching your head, you weren't alone. Sorry for the confusion.

This is the time of year when well-meaning - but way off base - people pick up fawns because, in their minds, the baby has been "abandoned." In almost all cases, the fawn has not been abandoned, but has been left by its mother because it's safer where it is than out wandering around while she is feeding. PLEASE! Leave fawns alone; avoid them; go away and forget them; everyone and everything in the world of nature, and our world will go a lot smoother if you do.

Tom Worcester, who lives near Sisters, can tell you how it works when a fawn is left alone. He called one morning around 8 a.m. to tell me he had a brand new fawn in his yard, and was worried that it had been "abandoned." At 10:30 a.m. he called back to say, "I had a good wildlife education this morning, this is a story with a happy ending. Momma deer came back for her baby, and the last I saw of them, the fawn was following along on wobbly legs, but keeping up." That's the way it works in Nature.

A mule deer fawn, brand new and still wet is, in most cases, vulnerable to only one animal: well-meaning people, said Tracy Leonhardy, a local wildlife rehabilitation specialist.

Steve George, an ODFW wildlife biologist in Bend, is one of the people charged with cleaning up the messes caused by well-meaning but misinformed people who carry baby wildlife out of the forest. "No matter how we try," he says,"we can't seem to get the word out to leave baby wildlife alone.

As any mother knows, taking care of one offspring is a chore, taking care of two can be more complicated; it's the same with mule deer. Often, a mule deer doe will wander off with one sibling and perhaps forget where she left the other one. In time, however, she will return to her baby and all ends well, unless it is kidnapped.

Rehabilitation personnel who get stuck with caring for baby wildlife say the same thing

For years, Jane Stevens, a retired wildlife rehabber who lived in Bend, received everything from baby bats to fawns to owl nestlings this time of year. Most of the animals she ended up with were unnecessarily taken from the wild by well-meaning people who, "just knew they were abandoned."

It is possible for humans to love baby wildlife to death; ask Jane or Gary Landers, a raptor rehabber near Sisters, they see the results of tampering with baby wildlife; it is not pretty. In some cases, scent does play a BIG role when a baby deer is finally reunited with its mother after being taken away by someone, she may not accept it if it smells like people.

It is all those well-meaning, curious people who stick around a fawn to see if it is "abandoned" who are actually keeping the baby's mother away. Unfortunately, it is also people who leave scraps of food out for mule deer, and supply them with salt licks, grain and other tasty tidbits, who are responsible for the plethora of mule deer wandering around town this time of year.

"Right now we have a mess to clean up near Redmond where a pen-raised elk ripped the shirt off a rancher because it didn't get fed by what the elk thought was its keeper," ODFW's George said, adding, "It will have to be shot, and that's something none of us (wildlife biologists) wants to do, but it is the eventual fate of too many of these wild animals raised in captivity."

Please help those poor misplaced mule deer mommas wandering around keep track of their offspring by leaving the babies alone. The last thing rehabbers need is another mouth to feed, nor does Steve George want to destroy another confused elk that was raised in captivity.

It's an expensive business, running around trying to give fawns back to their mothers. To help pay the bills, Leonhardy has formed Wildside Rehab.com. so she can accept financial help, which she badly needs.

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