If you find a baby deer …

A fawn has the best chance of survival when cared for by its mother.

Two young deer fawns with spots lay in a forest clearing

White-tailed Deer fawns are born April through July, with the majority of fawns born in June. Most first-year does will have one fawn each year, but twins or triplets are typically seen thereafter.

Until they are strong enough to keep up with their mothers, deer fawns are left alone while their mothers go off to feed. Mother deer will stay away from the fawns to avoid leading predators to their young.  Fawns are typically left in an area with tall grass or bushes, but sometimes they are left in more open areas, including backyards. Older deer fawn may wander short distances. Does return at dawn and dusk to feed and/or move their young.

Well-meaning humans often assume that because a fawn is alone it must be an orphan, leading to numerous fawn “kidnappings” each year.

If you find a deer fawn that you think needs help, use the information below to guide your choice of intervention. For more information on navigating conflicts with deer, visit our Deer as Neighbors page.

Due to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Virginia, there are increasing geographical limitations on fawn rehabilitation. The current four CWD Disease Management Areas (DMAs) in Virginia include 1) Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren; 2) Arlington, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Madison, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock; 3) Carroll, Floyd, Franklin, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Roanoke, Wythe; and 4) Bland, Tazewell, and Smyth Counties.  Rehabilitation of fawns in these counties is not permitted, nor is the removal of fawns or other deer from this area.  It's especially important to make every effort possible to leave healthy fawns where they are to have every chance possible to reunite with their mothers. If you find a truly orphaned or injured fawn in a DMA, call the DWR helpline at 1-855-571-9003.

A young fawn with spots lays in the tall grassIf you find a fawn, do any of the following apply?

  • It is bleeding, has an open wound, or has a broken bone. 
  • It’s covered in fly eggs (look like small grains of rice).
  • It’s cold or wet.
  • It’s crying nonstop for hours on end.
  • It appears weak AND is lying on its side.

If YES, the deer is likely injured or orphaned. Contact your nearest permitted wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian for treatment. Do not give the baby food or water! Never chase a fawn to capture it. The stress of being chased can be dangerous to a fawn. Fawns are prone to a condition called capture myopathy, which is caused by chase and stress. Capture myopathy can lead to damage to internal organs and even death.

If NO, continue on to the next question.

Is the fawn in a dangerous location (e.g., by a busy road, in a backyard with dogs, etc.)?

If YES, the fawn can be moved a short distance to a safer location.

When moving a fawn, it’s not unusual for the fawn to follow you as you leave. To prevent the fawn from following you, place the fawn facing away from the direction in which you plan to leave so it cannot watch you. Tap the fawn once or twice firmly between the shoulder blades (this mimics how the mother taps the fawn with her nose to communicate “stay here and wait until I come back.”)

Quickly leave the area. Do not linger. The fawn may stand up and take a few steps to follow. Keep going and the fawn should lie back down. If possible, you can monitor from afar with binoculars.

If NO, then the fawn is healthy and simply waiting for mom to return.

Leave the fawn alone! Keep children and pets away. Monitor from a distance and reassess the situation in 24 hours. A fawn has the BEST chance of survival when cared for by its mother.

Two healthy fawns with spots lay in the woods. Overlaid text on top: Don't be a fawn napper! Overlaid text on bottom: It's normal for a fawn to be alone during the day. Mother deer often stay away from their young to avoid leading predators to their location. If you find a fawn, leave it alone - the mother will return at dusk.

Each animal's nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if they have any chance of survival. Inappropriate food or feeding techniques can lead to sickness or death. Raising a wild mammal in captivity is illegal unless you have a state permit. For information on how you can become a permitted wildlife rehabilitator, visit our Wildlife Care Academy and contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources or your state's wildlife agency.