Found a baby deer all by itself? “Please leave it alone.” That’s the advice of Good Zoo staff, who receive multiple phone calls every day about “abandoned” fawns that aren’t abandoned at all. Worse yet, some well-meaning folks are actually driving up to the zoo’s doors with fawns. “People get really upset that we won’t take it, but there is absolutely no reason for us to, plus it is illegal,” said Penny Miller, zoo director. Newborn fawns cannot follow their moms around until they are about two weeks old, unlike other hoof-stock like zebras. So the doe parks her fawn in tall grass or shrubs, and returns only to feed it, so as not to attract predators to the baby. “White-tailed deer are not out there in droves abandoning their babies,” Miller added.
“Like kids, the babies don’t always stay put, and may follow a person. Just shoo it away back into cover,” Miller advised. Misplaced fawns bleet out to their moms, and the doe will call back and find them. Fawns are born in late May and into June, so the phone calls are piling in now at the zoo.
The same advice goes for baby birds, which leave the nest feathered, but lack tail feathers, and are unable to fly for a few days until they build up flight muscles. Pick up the fledgling bird and put it 4-6 feet off the ground and keep kids, cats and dogs away. The mother bird will feed it. “Touching a baby bird or fawn does not make the mother reject it, said Mindi White, manager of Animal Husbandry. “That’s an old wive’s tale that we just cannot seem to correct. We also handle all our mammal and avian zoo babies for physical exams and weighing; mom takes them right back.” Birds have no sense of smell, and all mother animals have strong maternal bonds to their babies.
“We have lots of great stories of babies being taken back out where they were found, and the mother comes back and claims them,” Miller said. The zoo receives dozens of calls per day about baby birds and fawns.
“We don’t have the staff time or cage space to take these animals, either. Our keepers are busy caring for our collection animals and monitoring our own new zoo babies,” said Miller. “Go on the Internet and do some research before you intervene. When baby animals are truly orphaned due to mom being hit by a car, rehabilitation is a costly, time consuming task done only by licensed wildlife rehabilitators common in Ohio and Pennsylvania but rare in West Virginia. “You can search for licensed wildlife rehabilitators on the internet if you are certain the mother animal has been killed,” White added.