White-tailed Deer Fawns of 2017

Patient Status: 
Current Patient

On May 18, the Center received its first deer fawn of 2017 -- officially kicking off "fawn season". 

An infant male White-tailed Deer was admitted to the Center as patient #17-0996 after he was orphaned.  His mother was hit by a car on May 14, and the fawn was found trying to cross a highway in Montgomery County.

Upon admission, the veterinary staff performed a physical examination and found that the fawn was dehydrated and in thin body condition.  An emergency panel and blood glucose test revealed low blood sugar.  Oral glucose and fluids were given to the fawn.  The fawn also received an ear tag for ID.

Prognosis for this fawn is considered good.  Tomorrow, he will be transferred to a permitted fawn rehabilitator.  There are only a few permitted fawn rehabilitators in Virginia, so it's very important to know whether or not a fawn needs rescuing.

Each year during the spring and summer months, the Wildlife Center admits dozens of White-tailed Deer fawns.  Fawns are most frequently admitted to the Center following dog attacks, collisions with vehicles or farm equipment, becoming orphaned, or because they were “fawn-napped”-- that is, they were picked up by well-intending citizens who believed these fawns to be orphans. Fawns are often the victims of this sort of well-meaning “rescue”, because that they are often by themselves during the day while their mothers are feeding quietly nearby.

White-tailed Deer fawns require intensive and specialized care, making them some of the most difficult patients to care for at the Center.

Fawns typically spend three to four months at the Center, and they require multiple bottle-feedings each day throughout most of the summer.

  • Fawns have very sensitive digestive tracts and therefore require a specially formulated diet. The Center purchases a fawn-milk replacer formula; the formula needs to be mixed, warmed, and bottle- fed to the fawns – a time-consuming process.  Some well-intentioned rescuers offer cow’s milk to rescued fawns believing it to be an appropriate substitute for mother’s milk. However, this is not the proper formula for a fawn and it can cause severe digestive issues —and even result in the death of the fawn.
  • Fawns are “high-stress” and often do not thrive in captivity. While some fawns readily accept being bottle- fed by humans, other fawns have a difficult time adjusting to captive rehabilitation. Because they are “high-stress” species, fawns are very sensitive to the activity and noise that is typical of the busy wildlife hospital. As soon as possible, fawns admitted to the Center are moved to outdoor enclosures farther away from the busy hospital. Those tasked with caring for and feeding the fawns need to be especially quiet and calm during feeding or while working around their enclosures, so as to not cause additional stress for the fawns.
  • Fawns can potentially transmit zoonotic diseases to their caretakers – when feeding the fawns, staff and students wear gowns and gloves as personal protection against possible transmission of bacteria or parasites from fawn to human. The potential of zoonotic disease transmission is one reason why it is never appropriate to hold wild deer fawns, or bring fawns into your own home.


Because of the difficulties of raising fawns in captivity, it is always best to try to reunite a deer fawn with its mother in the wild.

Still, a number of fawns do require the specialized care offered by veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators. Fawn patients go through several stages of care at the Wildlife Center.

Initially, each fawn is housed individually indoors while the veterinary team performs fecal examinations to ensure the fawns do not have parasites that could spread to their future fawn roommates. Once medically cleared, the fawns move outside into deer runs and are introduced to one another in small groups of two or three.

Fawns are started with bottle-feedings multiple times each day. When a fawn becomes comfortable with bottle-feeding, it is soon transitioned to “rack-training” to minimize contact with people. Rack-training means the rehabilitation staff and students no longer need to hold the formula bottles for the fawns – the young deer can access their bottles on a rack in their enclosures.

As the fawns mature, the rehabilitation staff and students begin introducing "browse" into the fawns’ diets – the students go into the woods surrounding the Wildlife Center twice a day to trim fresh branches and leaves for the fawns.

When the fawns are able to successfully bottle-feed and are starting to nibble on browse, they are eventually moved to one of the Center’s deer yards – where they will be a part of a herd of up to 15 or 16 deer.

Your donation will go towards the specialized, intensive care that the 2017 fawns will need, as well as thousands of other wild animals that need our specialized care.