REMINDER: Don’t touch or take home wildlife

Local News

Mule deer fawns are born with creamy brown coats and white spots. Its coat and spots help the fawn blend in with the surrounding vegetation.
(BLM)

UTAH (ABC4) – As many decide to venture outside, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is reminding the public to not touch or disturb baby deer or elk that they may see in the wild.

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According to DWR, if you come across a deer fawn or an elk calf during late May or early June, do not touch or engage with them.

“If you do see one, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources requests that you do not touch, try to feed, or take the baby animal home — doing so can have fatal consequences for the animal and could result in injury to you,” officials say.

The division says fawns at this time are typically alone and isolated, which is done on purpose.

“Newborn fawns are actually alone and isolated during their first weeks of life — and that’s on purpose,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones shares. “The mother knows that leaving the fawn alone is the best way to protect it from predators.”

According to DWR, newborn big game animals fall into two categories: followers and hiders.

“Followers include bison calves and bighorn sheep lambs, which follow their mothers shortly after they’re born. Hiders, such as mule deer fawns and elk calves, do the opposite — they hide, alone, for most of the day,” they inform.

Officials tell ABC4 that hiding is how fawns feel secure and safe from predators, but after about two to three weeks, the fawn grows strong enough to start accompanying its mother.

According to the division, it is vital that the general public does not disturb the wildlife as Utah’s drought has impacted them significantly.

“Drought conditions are very hard on pregnant does and newborn fawns, in particular,” Jones shares. “The lower food supply due to the drought leads to poor body condition for the adult deer, which could lower adult survival rates, may lead to stillborn births, or can lead to low birth weights and decreased newborn fawn survival. Especially this year, please help the wildlife by not disturbing them.”

Here are the steps to take if you see a deer fawn or an elk calf that appears to be alone, according to DWR:

  • Don’t approach it. Watch it or take a photo of it from a distance, but don’t go near it. In almost every case, the fawn has not been abandoned by its mother.
  • Don’t touch it or pet it. Finding and petting newly born animals is a problem because the animal’s survival depends on it being left alone. If you touch it, you may leave your scent on the animal, which could draw predators to it. 
  • Give it plenty of space. Even if you don’t touch the fawn, getting too close can cause the fawn to run away from you, leaving its hiding place where its mother left it. Then, when the mother comes back to care for the fawn, it won’t be there.
  • Never attempt to remove the fawn from the wild or take it home. DWR conservation officers occasionally respond to instances where an individual has taken a baby deer home to “care for it.” However, that often has fatal consequences for the animal and can also create public safety risks. It is illegal to keep wildlife in captivity and can result in a class A misdemeanor. If you believe that a baby animal is injured or sick, report it to the nearest DWR office. 

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