Finding a helpless fawn seemingly abandoned and alone can make anyone want to intervene. However, interfering with these fawns can often put the fawns in great danger and may constitute something wildlife specialists refer to as “fawn-napping.”
Late spring and early summer is prime fawn-napping time. During this time of year, the babies are too small to keep up with their mothers, but their mothers still need to move around to forage. Deer handle this by finding a safe spot to tuck the fawn away while the mother moves around. She comes back periodically to check on and feed the fawn.
Fawns do not have a scent, so predators do not detect them. Their parents train them to stay still when a potential threat approaches, so most animals walk right by. Unfortunately, this also allows humans to approach them and pick them up. Fawns that are removed in this way often face poor outcomes, and it happens remarkably often. Oregon, Oklahoma, and Virginia have all reported an increase in fawn-napping incidents, with one Virginia rescue taking in five stolen fawns in a single weekend.
There are a few times when it is appropriate to rescue a fawn. If the fawn is curled up like a cat or gets up occasionally to move and play, it is probably fine. If there’s evidence the fawn is indeed orphaned or clearly looks injured, it may need intervention. If the fawn is in a dangerous location, such as on a road, it may be wise to move it out of danger, keeping it as close to the original spot as possible. Otherwise, simply keep an eye on the situation from a distance to make sure its mother comes back to keep it safe.
Always call a wildlife rehabilitation center or government wildlife management office before you attempt to handle the fawn. If making contact with the fawn is necessary, you can mask your scent to help keep it off the radar of predators by rubbing an old towel on the grass, then on the fawn. Rescuing wild animals can be very rewarding, but make sure that they are really in need of help before you intervene.