Spring and early summer in New Hampshire means the arrival of newborn and newly-hatched wildlife. But each year, the lives of many wild animals are upset by people who only mean to help. These people take animals from the wild in a mistaken attempt to help them. In fact, these would-be-rescuers are leaving the parent animals to search in vain for their offspring and are harming the young animals' chances of having a successful life in the wild, if they even live to be released. Young wild animals which survive improper human rearing to not have the skills necessary to fend for themselves in the wild. Seeing a young wild animal alone DOES NOT mean that it is abandoned, injured or needs assistance. In most cases, it is normal for parent animals to leave their offspring unattended for extended periods of time. And most times, the parents are actually nearby, watching their young but are reluctant to return while people are present.
When a deer fawn is seen by itself, the first instinct is to intervene. In nearly all cases, this is NOT necessary. A deer fawn or moose calf alone does not mean it needs assistance. It is normal for the doe to leave her fawn while she goes off by herself. The fawn, born without a scent, is actually safer from predators when left alone. But it is at this time that problems arise for fawns. Some people feel an obligation to intervene, thinking a fawn is "lost." Rarely is a fawn abandoned and never is it lost. If you should see a fawn in the road, put it off to the side where the mother will return for it. Fawns are often left by outbuildings or at the edge of the woods or gardens by their mother. This, too, is normal.
When to call for help about a fawn or calf:
• If you have verified that the mother is dead;
• If the animal is continually crying;
• If the animal is lying flat on its side;
• If the animal is obviously injured or covered with flies or ants.
If you see a fawn which needs help, please call us at Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife at 603-367-WILD (9453) and we will help assess the situation. And in many cases, the fawn may be able to be reunited with its' mother. We will help you make this decision.
Never handle wildlife without gloves and DO NOT attempt to give a fawn any food or water.
Cathie Gregg is the executive director of the Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife. For more information about our work with wildlife or volunteer opportunities, call the center at (603) 367-WILD (9453).
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:18
A little more than a decade ago, Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife became licensed to care for New Hampshire’s injured and orphaned deer fawns. This program was put into place with center working cooperatively with New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to provide care for these fawns to be raised until they can fend for themselves.
Since deer that have become acclimated to human contact at an early age typically do not exhibit the normal fear of people that deer raised in the wild do, it is imperative that these orphaned fawns be raised in such a way as to minimize exposure to human contact and any acclimation to humans.
Accidents bring in orphaned young
Fawns begin to arrive at Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife in mid to late May and these admissions continue to spike through June. These are usually the animals that are orphaned when the doe (dam) is killed on the highway. More often that not, the young will be lying next to the dead mother on the road. If the fawn is older, it may be off in the woods nearby. During these months we also see fawns that are picked up unnecessarily by humans who are only trying to help but are in reality, kidnapping the fawn from its mother.
Alone is not abandoned
When a fawn is seen by itself, the first instinct is to intervene. In nearly all cases, this is not necessary. A fawn alone does not mean the animal is orphaned or needs assistance. Questions or concerns about a fawn seen alone, or any wild animal, should be discussed with New Hampshire Fish and Game or Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife (367-WILD) prior to intervention.
The first question we ask a caller is “How long has it been seen without the mother?”
If it has been a few hours, even overnight, we want to wait to allow the mother time to retrieve her youngster. It is normal for the mother to leave her fawn while she goes off by herself and the doe typically feeds her fawn at dawn and dusk, leaving in between. The fawn, born without a scent, is actually safer from predators when left alone. Any continued presence or frequent visits to check up on the fawn will only contribute to the liklihood of the fawn being abandoned or being found by a predator. Unless you can verify that the fawn’s mother is dead, please leave it alone or call us so we can help make a decision in the best interest of the fawn. Resist the temptation to continually check on the animal; doing so only serves to further separate it from the doe.
A second wave of accidents
In later summer months, July and August, fawns are usually admitted because the fawns themselves have been struck by vehicles as they follow their mothers across roads and highways. Minimally injured fawns can be treated at the center with a fairly high success rate if they are admitted early enough in the summer.
All fawns need to be released by mid-September to allow them time to acclimate before winter. Therefore injuries which consist of broken legs are best dealt with as early in the summer as possible. We have had callers contact us about fawns in parking garages, on median strips, at the Ford dealer and one marooned on an island. The most unusual call was about a fawn that had fallen into an oil pit used in a garage to change oil. The fawn was removed, wiped down and released back to its mother.
Newborn fawns are admitted weighing about 5 pounds but this can vary. If a dam were to have twin fawns, the birth weight for each fawn would be lower. We can tell by the shape of the back legs if the fawn is a single or a twin because of the way the fawns were positioned in the doe in pregnancy. So if a fawn is found near a road hit doe, we can usually tell if we need to look for more than one fawn.
Some does will have triplets and in 2007 we were called by a homeowner who was witnessing a doe giving birth to four fawns in her yard. When giving birth, the doe will deliver a fawn and then walk off a short distance to drop another, not delivering her youngsters together. The smallest fawn admitted at our center was a little over 2 pounds and was probably a triplet. The fawn unfortunately didn’t survive, possibly because it was too small to reach the doe for the necessary colostrum to survive both short and long-term health. We had a three-pound fawn admitted this year and this fawn was raised to be a healthy youngster and was released with the group.
Fawns are fed colostrum when admitted because we usually do not know the full history of the animal. Colostrum is the mother’s first milk and affords the antibodies which all mammals need to survive. By giving colostrum to our fawns, we are assured that they have received it. The problem with colostrum is that it needs to be given within 48 hours of birth to be effective.
Colostrum is also good for scouring (diarrhea) in fawns and is given when a fawn has been fed by the general public.
If the instance ever arises when you know the doe is deceased and the fawn MUST be picked up, do not feed the fawn any milk products. (And always wear gloves when handling any wildlife.) The best thing to give the fawn is Pedialyte, found in the baby aisle in any drugstore, which will keep it hydrated until you can get it to a provider who is licensed to care for deer and that should be done without delay.
Once admitted to our center, the fawn is allowed time to calm down. If necessary, the animal is placed on heat or into an incubator. A weight is taken and a number placed into the right ear which corresponds with the intake records. Fawns are fed four times a day unless it is a neonate (newborn) and then 2 a.m. feedings are also necessary — a little hectic if you have multiple newborn fawns and a full rehab center of other animals. This is why summer months in rehab centers are known as “baby season.”
Weights are tracked daily on all fawns as is their overall health. One care provider at our center raises all of the white-tailed fawns from admission to release to prevent the animals from habituating (taming) on humans.
Our pen was specifically constructed away from the center to isolate the fawns from voices and vehicles and no other enclosures are near it. Our rehabilitation center is not open to visitors, although our our Butler Education Center is.
Fears in fawns
We have found that thunderstorms and fireworks are the largest stress factors that we see in raising fawns. It is not unusual in a severe thunderstorm for the rehabilitator to have to sit in the pen with the animals. Homeopathic calming agents are sometimes used if we know storms are in the area.
Fawn care is funded 100 percent by the general public. We depend on donors purchasing “fawn sponsorships” which help cover the cost of fawns raised at our center. Please call for more information or if you wish to purchase a fawn sponsorship as a special gift for a friend or family member for the upcoming holidays.
To raise a fawn from admission to release is about five months. “Round up” day is when fawns are able to be released, having grown into wild, young deer and able to fend for themselves. It is stressful, emotional and joyful all at once. To say goodbye to the fawns which we have cared for around the clock through the spring, summer and part of the fall is undoubtedly difficult. But this isn’t about me, the rehabilitator; this is about our Center’s mission of giving a second chance to these animals so they will have the opportunity to live their lives in the wild.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:19
As local readers may be aware, Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife in Madison takes in injured and orphaned wild animals which find themselves in need of care. This can be as a result of a bird or animal being orphaned when the parents are killed or relocated, or the youngster itself may be injured. We provide rehabilitation and support care until the patients are ready to be released on their own.
Each summer we are apt to see one or two American Kestrel falcons admitted to our center and we have had one nest of kestrels come in from the same house in Littleton three times! In that instance, the parent falcons have built their nest in the same precarious location in the eaves of the home; as the youngsters grow they fall from the cavity nest onto the sidewalk below. In this case we recommended to the homeowner that they close off the area of siding to encourage the falcon parents to nest in a location which will be safer for their babies. Sometimes we may admit a single kestrel from separate locations on different dates which is opportune as they are best raised with another kestrel or a "foster." This past summer saw several falcons admitted.
The three falcons that we see in New Hampshire are usually the American kestrel, the merlin and, less frequently, the peregrine. The American Kestrel is a small bird, about 10 inches long with a wingspan to 8 inches. It has a high pitched "keely-keely" call and if you have several, the noise can be ear-splitting. The male is a beautifully marked and colorful bird with vertical black facial bars. The female is more muted in coloring. We once admitted a female kestrel from the drive-through at MacDonalds in North Conway where I can only assume she flew into a window or hit the building. We had another kestrel several years ago which came to us from the golf course in Jefferson after being struck by a wayward golf ball. Both falcons had head trauma and were able to be released. The merlin is a larger falcon, and can reach 12-13 inches long and is decorated with dark streaking. The merlin, possibly because of its slightly larger size, has the more notable and recognizable falcon shape, with sharply angled wings, designed for speed and control of air space. For a small hunter, the merlin is the Top Gun of avian flyers. The merlin will hunt birds but also takes small mammals where the kestrel feeds mainly on grasshoppers, insects and some mice and small birds. Peregrines can be up to 18 inches in length with a 15 inch wingspan. The peregrine is a truly beautiful bird and appears to wear a "helmet" on the head. This is the bird known as "Frightful" in "My Side of the Mountain" and is mentioned in Leviticus. The peregrine dominates the sky for airspeed and is the fastest bird or mammal in the animal kingdom.
Historically we take in more kestrels but this summer we took in equal merlins. The chick which confused us was the one walking down the middle of West Side Road in North Conway one mid-June evening. The bird was about the size of a tennis ball, nothing but white fluff with some dark markings. Why this bird wasn't struck and killed is a miracle but from the several calls received, we know that several vehicles straddled it as it continued its journey down West Side. The area that the bird was picked up in is mostly open fields with few trees that were within walking distance by a 78 gram chick. Kestrels are usually cavity dwellers or can lay its eggs in buildings like the Littleton kestrel. But we were totally confused as to where this chick had come from. Because my first choice is always to return a chick (or any wild baby) to its parents, I spent days searching for signs of its nest with no success. At the time we admitted this chick, we had no other kestrel falcons and began to search for a "surrogate parent" which is an unreleaseable bird of that same species which can foster an orphan until the youngster can be released to survive successfully. We have several "fosters" or "surrogates" at Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife including Hunter our Broad-winged hawk who has raised dozens of Broad-winged chicks over the years, actually fostering orphaned chicks from other centers and Laila, our Red-tailed hawk who raises injured and orphaned Red-tailed juveniles which come her way. For years we also had a foster White-tailed doe, Spirit, who raised over 25 of our fawns. But we do not have a kestrel foster. After calling around, we were able to place our single kestrel at the Center for Wildlife in Maine and our chick was fostered by their surrogate "Savannah" and was released last Saturday. She will migrate throughout the fall months southward to warmer climates although some kestrels have been known to winter in Manchester and Dover, where they can be seen on telephone wires over large fields as they search for prey.
The merlin seen here was admitted after being struck by a vehicle in Berlin. She was the second merlin admitted from Berlin this past summer. Because this bird was admitted as an older juvenile and not a chick, a surrogate wasn't as critical as in the case of the nestling kestrel. Surrogates are necessary for proper "imprinting" to take place in young birds. Some birds "imprint" visually, some by auditory means, some as early as in the egg but all within a short time of hatching. Birds that do not imprint properly on their parents, or fosters of their species, will not know how to find mates, hunt prey, locate suitable habitat, avoid predators or be successful in life when released.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:19