Dawn of fawn season

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We saw our first fawn on May 15. That seemed earlier than in some years.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) white-tailed deer program leader, Alan Cain, however, said 90% of Hill Country fawns are born by June 14, based on a statewide breeding study. I guess I just hadn’t seen any that early before.

It’s not uncommon to discover a fawn hidden alone in weeds and presume it’s been abandoned. The urge to help it often follows. Resist it.

Little fawns found hidden in the weeds in late spring and summer have probably been placed there by their mothers. That’s just what they do. Fawns are rarely abandoned.

I draw that conclusion from hearing college-trained wildlife biologists, educators and game managers discuss it for over 40 years. The maternal instinct to care for their young is powerful. I’ve also observed motherhood in other species from cows to humans. I’ve never witnessed it in bears, but I’ve read enough and heard plenty of horror stories about offending humans to know it can turn deadly. I keep a football field’s distance between momma bears with cubs.

As wearisome or bratty as an offspring might be, the mother-instinct usually precludes abandonment. On rare occasions when it does happen, it’s abnormal and often due to biological or physiological conditions caused by droughts. Doe deer with twin fawns are said to be more likely to abandon a fawn they can’t adequately care for than single-birth mothers.

Nature and humans, however, can occasionally cause a fawn to be left alone. Predators and vehicles take a toll on mother deer, but there is no way to tell if that’s the case when a fawn is discovered alone. The educated presumption is that the mother is nearby, perhaps resting or taking on nourishment so she can meet the little ones’ needs. Many human mothers can tell you being one is a tiresome endeavor. That’s all you need to know. Just don’t mess with fawns.

When I’ve come upon a bedded fawn, I’ve considered it one of nature’s greatest treats. That is, after my heart rate has slowed back down. It’s occasionally comparable to walking up on an unseen covey of quail and having them suddenly explode a couple feet away from you. With deer, it’s more startling if the fawn has developed its legs – it can erupt through the weeds sounding much more like danger than it is.

Other times, it just lies there with its little head tucked down between its forelegs like the epitome of innocence that it is. Once, though, I had a fawn suddenly stand up about 10 feet away and just stare at me. Considering that I was the only human living on the ranch, I imagine I was the first one it had ever seen. I took one picture and slowly backed away.

The chances of stumbling upon a fawn are high this year due to habitat conditions. Cain expects an unusually large fawn crop.

Leave ’em alone.

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