SC Department of Natural Resources
If a deer fawn is found alone in the woods, leave it there, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. His mother did not abandon him; she’s probably nearby.
Removing a fawn from the forest is also illegal because the animal is taken outside of the legal deer hunting season, which is hunting season.
Many people who encounter a solitary spotted fawn in the woods or along a road mistakenly assume that the animal was abandoned by its mother and want to bring the seemingly helpless creature home to care for it. Young fawns like this have not been abandoned and are still in the care of a doe.
Seemingly “helpless” deer fawns born in April, May and June in South Carolina will begin their daily movements with their mothers in about three or four weeks. Human handling and disturbance of fawns can cause a doe to flee or even abandon her offspring. Additionally, a bleating response from the fawn can summon nearby predators.
It is part of nature’s plan for a doe to leave her fawn or fawns alone for their first few weeks of life. The reason for this unusual maternal action is that the fawn at this age is better protected from the doe.
The presence of the doe nearby would attract predators because the doe lacks the protective coloration of the fawn, and the older, larger doe has a much stronger scent.
A fawn that seems abandoned is simply waiting for a visit from its mother. A doe, after brief periods of feeding and grooming her fawn, will spend much of her day feeding and resting somewhat distant from her young. The fawn usually remains recumbent as if sleeping, but occasionally moves short distances to new sleeping sites.
Every spring and summer, MNR receives many calls from people who have discovered these “lost” deer. Young fawns are undoubtedly cute and cuddly, but if taken into captivity they become semi-tame adult deer that can become quite dangerous.
Adult male deer, no matter how they were raised, are particularly dangerous during the breeding season. Even deer bred by humans are unpredictable. Sometimes “tamed” deer seriously injure people, and in cases where the deer pose a threat to humans, the deer sometimes have to be killed.
People often ask MNR if they need deer fawns for their research projects. Although MNR is actively engaged in deer research, current studies do not involve captive animals.