Is That Fawn Abandoned? Probably Not.

Spring has sprung and that means warm weather, beautiful flowers and, of course, adorable baby animals. During springtime in the Catskills, it is not uncommon to see baby rabbits, young birds in their nests, and even bear cubs! One of the most common types of baby animals for Frost Valley guests to spot in the springtime are whitetail deer fawns.

At Frost Valley we typically start seeing deer fawns sometime around late May to early June, but sometimes even earlier. When the fawns are first born they are very small and covered in spots. The spots serve an important function for a young and vulnerable fawn. They are the perfect camouflage for blending in with all the little specks of light that penetrate the forest canopy and shine on the forest floor. They also help to break up the silhouette of the fawn when hiding in tall grass or dense shrubs.

After a fawn is born, its mother needs to eat a lot of food in order to produce the large amounts of nutrient rich milk required for the job of feeding a growing fawn. In order to feed, the mother must leave the fawn in a safe hiding place while she ventures out to find food. While the fawn is alone, it instinctively knows to remain very quiet and still, even if a predator comes close. A newborn fawn can’t run very fast. Outrunning a predator like a coyote, bear, or bobcat is unlikely, so the fawn knows to stay put in the hiding place that its mother has chosen. Newborn fawns have almost no smell at all. This makes it very difficult for a predator to locate them by scent. The lack of smell and the presence of the camouflage spots are the perfect combination for keeping a new fawn safe from predators.

When hiking through the woods in the springtime, you may come across a lone fawn lying silently on the forest floor. It is understandable why many people would assume that it was abandoned by its mother. In reality, the mother is probably just out feeding and will likely return to the fawn very soon. Just remember, it is perfectly normal to find a fawn by itself. The best thing a human can do the help that fawn is leave it alone. Lingering in the area or, even worse, moving the fawn will delay the return of the mother and her nutritious milk.

Occasionally we even find fawns on main camp, sometimes right next to a building! This can be very exciting to find and you may want to share this information with others. However, the more people that know the location of the adorable baby deer, the more dangerous and stressful the situation becomes for the fawn. Fawns need to nurse several times a day and drawing a crowd to a fawn’s hiding place can prevent the mother from returning and nursing the fawn for a dangerously long period of time. If you find a fawn on camp we ask that you inform a Frost Valley staff member but otherwise, please keep the information to yourself. The staff member will monitor the area from a distance to ensure that crowds of people do not develop around the fawn.

Lastly, it should be noted that this policy of leaving young animals alone can be applied to all wildlife. Without the proper license, it is illegal to be in possession of a wild animal. If you find an animal that is clearly injured or in trouble, please leave it alone and notify a FV staff member. If you encounter this situation at home or outside of Frost Valley, notify the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation or your state’s equivalent agency.


Dan DeChellis

Growing up in his home state of Pennsylvania, Dan acquired a love of the outdoors at an early age. He is the Natural Resources and Environmental Science Coordinator at Frost Valley. Throughout his time at Frost Valley, Dan has worn many hats and developed a deep connection with the land. He is thrilled to be part of the management and stewardship of the place he has grown to love.

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