Help Deer Fawns by Leaving Them in the Wild

A doe and her young deer fawn stand in tall grass.
Photo courtesy James St. John//Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)

On average, white-tailed deer fawns have 300 spots. How would you like it to be your job to count fawn spots? If so, your busy season in Ohio would start right now, in May and June, when the babies are being born. At this time, there is an abundance of new plants for mom to eat and help her produce plenty of milk for her offspring. Does typically have one to three offspring. Most first-time moms will have one fawn, but starting the second year, twins are more likely. If plenty of resources are available (food, water, shelter) does may have triplets.

A brown fawn sits hidden among the tall greenery at Parky's Farm
If you see a deer fawn hidden like this, don’t fret! Mom is nearby, keeping an eye out. Do not disturb fawns. (Photo by Eric King)

After birth, fawns can stand within minutes and walk within hours. However, they are still wobbly and to slow to escape predators. In order to stay safe, the mother deer hides the young in tall grasses or a bushy area. For the first four days, she will typically be with in a 100 yards of her offspring but will only approach to nurse two to three times a day.

When a predator approaches, the fawn lays completely still and lower its heartbeat and breathing to avoid detection. As the fawns get older, it will develop a ‘hide and bolt’ behavior. When a predator approaches, the fawn will bolt and find a new hiding spot. The mother will also start moving farther away to find more food, as she must continue producing more milk for her offspring. At this point, fawns will be nursing six to eight times and day. By three weeks old, the fawns are have grown big and strong enough to outrun predators. They will begin to follow their mother and supplement nursing by browsing on vegetation.

A deer fawn turns its head toward the camera as it walks in a field.
Photo courtesy Mathew Paulson/Creative Commons

Fawns will spend up to 90% of their time hiding in the first few weeks. If you happen to find a deer fawn in your neighborhood or a park, the best thing to do is to leave it alone. We all want to help, but the baby is just doing its job of hiding so it stays safe. Trying to help the baby can cause stress and anxiety for them and for the mother. In addition, when you approach a baby deer in hiding, you leave your scent trails behind for predators to follow. Only intervene if the baby is obviously injured or the deceased mother is nearby. Then please visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ website for a list of licensed wildlife rehabbers. It is illegal to take in a fawn (or other wildlife) without a license.


Ellen Meehan
Nature Interpreter, Parky’s Farm