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If you find a baby deer by itself in your backyard, leave it alone. Chances are it’s OK

  A fawn hides in the bushes in Serge Marinkovic's front yard in Belleville in June 2021.
Serge Marinkovic
A fawn hides in the bushes in Serge Marinkovic's front yard in Belleville in June 2021.

In May and June, it’s common for people to find newborn fawns in their backyards with no mother in sight.

Concerned residents will often call their local wildlife centers thinking the fawn was abandoned by its mother.

But in most cases, the fawn is safe, said Ballwin Wildlife Rescue Center executive director Kim Rutledge. After birth, mothers will leave their fawns alone in a safe space for up to 24 hours to protect them from predators while they search for food.

“The safe place that she chooses might be your yard or your front porch or right in front of your garage door,” Rutledge explained. “But … if the fawn is laying still and quiet, that's completely normal and totally healthy.”

Rutledge emphasized the importance of leaving the babies alone while they’re in such places, because they need time to gain strength before predators can pick up on their scent.

Even in emergency situations, Rutledge said nature will usually work its course. “If there are any other mom deer in the area, they will adopt that baby even if it's not their own.”

Nevertheless, Rutledge encouraged people to call their local wildlife rehabilitation center if a fawn shows signs of distress. At the center where she works, Rutledge said dozens of people call about baby deer each day.

When Dr. Serge Marinkovic found a fawn in his yard in Belleville, that’s exactly what he did. After he learned it was safe, Marinkovic and his wife set up a camera to monitor its growth.

“You could see the placental material on its chest and everything. So it was literally just born that day,” he said.

Marinkovic said the mother came back around the same time each day to feed the fawn. By the fourth day, he said it was strong enough to stand up on its own.

Once the fawn builds enough endurance to stand, Rutledge said, it will leave. Sure enough, Marinkovic’s fawn disappeared shortly after.

He said he’s grateful to have been a witness to the fawn’s growth.

“It's just a really beautiful part of nature to see this and experience it [so] up close and personal.”
Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio.

Lilley Halloran
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