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Fawns taken from wild get tough love to survive

Jul 21, 2014


By The Associated Press

MEDFORD — This is the time of year when some people end up loving deer to death.

Earlier this month, a baby buck was scooped out of the woods near Hyatt Lake by a Medford man who took it home, fed it goat's milk and habituated it to people before an Oregon State Police trooper eventually confiscated it. Though the man probably meant well, his actions tamed the deer, making it nearly impossible for the animal to survive when returned to the wild.

The Mail Tribune newspaper reports that in the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon, these deer end up with Jody Raines, the region's only deer rehabilitator. It's her job to make real deer of Bambified animals — with a healthy diet, a healthy immune system and a healthy fear of humans.

“When they're here, they get no human handling,” said Raines, of Selma. “We need to make them as untamed as possible when we release them. Tame deer die.”

Last month the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife logged eight cases in which residents picked up deer they found around their homes, mistakenly believing these animals were abandoned.

What the residents failed to realize is that it's common practice for does to leave fawns to go off and forage for hours at a time, then to return and feed their offspring, says Steve Niemela, an Oregon wildlife biologist.

“People often perceive them as abandoned, but 99 percent of the time they're not,” Niemela says.

Those who handle fawns are told to return them to the spot where they were found. In other cases, those discovering a deer will call Niemela, who tells them simply to leave the deer alone.

Raines has a dozen fawns in her care. If past success rates are a guide, then only six will survive at least a month after being reintroduced to the wild.

“It's simply not optimum to have them come into care,” she said.

While cases of people taking fawns from the wild has dropped over the past two decades, there are still more than enough who mistakenly believe a lone fawn is abandoned, interject themselves into the ways of the wild and turn their caring heart into a death knell.

“I blame Disney,” Raines said. “A lot.”

___

Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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