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  • Jul
  • 20

Why I Didn’t Rescue the Fawn

Posted by at 1:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

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It was clear that he wanted my help. He was the cutest baby I had ever seen, covered with white spots, mewing a soft call as he walked toward me with pleading eyes looking straight into mine, ears perked forward inquisitively. I had never heard that plaintive sound before—and I’ve spent plenty of time watching deer. But here he was, giving me a decision to make.

Should I rescue this poor animal, make friends and be one with nature, save an innocent fellow being in need? Or turn a cold shoulder and walk on by?

If you’re ever faced with an animal rescue situation and local officials won’t help, please know that PETA’s Emergency Response Team is on call 24/7 at 757-622-7382, option 2. I’ve stored that number in my cell phone. But first, it’s good to know the basics on how to handle an emergency.

I have a lot of wildlife around my home, since I treat my yard as a sanctuary and do what I can to live in harmony with nature.

Usually, my wild friends need no help from me, even when it is heartbreaking to watch. Hawks claim an occasional bird or rabbit whom I counted as part of the family. Not every baby bird fledges the nest, not every squirrel or rabbit survives the winter, not every wren finds a mate. The seasons of life come and go with or without me. But there are situations when wild animals do need our help, especially when the creatures are traumatized or injured by human activity. We must try to help animals who have been injured by cars, electric lines, window strikes, and so on.

Feeding wildlife is harmful because it inspires animals to stay in areas that are dangerous to them, or that wouldn’t normally support/sustain them. Artificial food sources will also cause animals to breed at an accelerated rate, meaning more birds, raccoon,  and deer. The more animals you have in a small area, the more likely they will be perceived as overpopulated or as a nuisance, especially when the birds nest on eaves and raccoons chew on buildings. Animal cruelty can result. Most cases of animal abuse (involving wildlife) happen because kind-hearted people lure the animals into danger by feeding them.

The fawn who recently approached me in the woods enjoyed a happy outcome. He walked up to me, intent on closing the distance between us as he mewed and looked me in the eye. It was then that I spotted his mother about 30 feet away, staring at me, ready to bolt, fearing the worst. Our fawn was just plain confused: I was not the parent he was seeking. Perhaps the oncoming thunderstorm had something to do with it. In any case, I would hardly be doing him a favor by being his friend—a lesson that could be deadly when hunting season rolls around. He’d be far better off not trusting people in general. So I clapped my hands, stomped my feet, growled at him, and made a hasty retreat to break off this relationship before it even started. From a distance, I watched through binoculars as mother and child reunited. A doe stays with her fawn for a year or so and will often leave to forage for food. People sometimes mistakenly think the young have been abandoned when, in fact, mom knows exactly where her child is. “Rescuing” babies while mom is healthy and feeding causes far more harm than good. I backed off, wished this pair well, and hoped that they would enjoy their lives together for many more summer days.

The experience for me was uplifting. To share that intimacy with such beautiful animals was something special. An omen, perhaps?

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  • Stephanie says:

    I have alway tried to stay away from the temptation of feeding wildlife (no matter how cute they look eating that grape). And really push this belief on my best friend (who got me to be a vegetarian, and a PETA member). Those little guys really can find food on there own. Also thanks for posting that number! I have been blown off by the local athorities for wanting a dying skunk that was hit by a car to not suffer. It was really heart breaking, that they didn’t care at all.

  • Lili says:

    Thank you for the info. It’s nice of you to help! We, animal lovers, tend to help others naturally…did you notice?

  • jude says:

    This is a very good lesson to all of us. Thanks for sharing your experience. Jude

  • Melissa says:

    Prior to reading this article, I would not have been able to resist the temptation to love on that sweet baby deer. Now I realize to attempt interaction with any wild animal means death to that animal later because so many people are cruel – sad but true! I loved the story and appreciate the sharing of knowledge. I do some hiking on the Appilacian Trail and there are signs posted saying “a fed bear is a dead bear.” I am someone who would feed the wild animals and the signs were perfect to make me realize I would not be helping them at all by doing so. This article helped me see the same. I actually put out cat food at work and at home to feed any animal in need and I put out fresh water daily as well. Now I wonder if I am doing them a favor or only adding to the problem. I read somewhere that if one is going to feed feral cats, he/she must ensure they are spayed/neutered and have their shots (so they will not breed or spread desease). I used to trap the feral cats and have them spayed/neutered and get their shots but it became overwhelming. There are so many uncared for, unwanted animals. I have racoons (mom and child) that come to my porch to eat and drink every night. I suppose I cannot feed them any more. 🙁 I will continue to feed the songbirds; I simply cannot stop this hobby. Thanks again for the article.
    And barbara… I think you did the right thing. The pup was doomed if left on the beach. You tried. 🙂

  • Patty Bowers says:

    This is so true. If only people realized that by befriending wild animals they are making them easy prey for hunters, ESPECIALLY deer.
    I am also going to rethink my continuous brid feeding. I thought it was a good thing because so many mama birds have so many mouths to feed right now!

  • Susan McDonald-Timms says:

    What a great tale. So hard to do at times I know. I have had this issue on my mind many times. If humans weren’t such a threat in general, then onw could let oneself make friends with a fawn, or any other thing willing to let one. But I have realised i may unfairly teach an animal a lie- that its safe to hang with all humans. That was a terrific story. All of loving -to people and creatures at times involves painful self-sacrifice- and the humility to know when you’re not what’s needed- when you are not enough-and so leave. Thanks for the tale

  • Something to remember also, the mother deer can stay away for the entire day, she may be no where to be seen for hours. Please leave the baby be, she will return thru the night. P.S. – Hunters love adult deer that are not afraid of humans, your strong desire to engage the baby or adults that inter your yard today could give them a cruel death later

  • Paul says:


    The number would work as any other when you’re dialing the States from Canada. While there isn’t a Canadian-based PETA response number (yet), those who maintain the line would still be more than happy to help if you’re having no luck with local authorities.

  • Catherine Davis says:

    I would have befriended the fawn and I now know that would have been wrong of me to do so. I would have thought that he had been abandoned and I had to save his life. I’m happy to have read this comment so I now know to check for the mom as she is probably close by and not let the little thing become friendly with people as it’s people that will try to kill it and they are not friends of nature. I hope mom and child live a long, healthy life thanks to this person that knew better than to take it in. Thank you.

  • Lili says:

    I have a question: is the number for Emergency response team effective in Canada (Québec) too? I live in Montreal. Is there a number for us?

  • Renata says:

    I try to be as scary as possible when a little beautiful bird enter our catio to investigate, a catio where there can be up to six cats and a dog. I prefer them to think I am scary than welcoming!!!

  • barbara says:

    Nice story. Good teachings.

    A few months ago an elephant seal pup stranded on the beach directly in front of my house. I called the Marine Mammal Center and waited for a volunteer. She came, and together we loaded the seal into a crate and off he went to TMMC. I fell in love with the little thing instantly and he was all I could talk about. Sadly, he did not make it. He lived for about three weeks after being rescued.

    So the question has been asked of me: should I have interfered with nature’s course? I fail to see how I could not. There is no way I could leave him there to
    die alone and scared.

    As humans we sometimes have to make difficult decisions on behalf of our animal friends. You did the right thing by scaring your little fawn friend, and I will go to my grave feeling like I did the right thing by the elephant seal.

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