Fawn delivered by C-section finds friend, future at B.C. refuge
Fawn named Friday is part of a growing rescue herd at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society
A fawn delivered by C-section on the side of a B.C. highway is now recovering nicely at a wildlife refuge near Smithers, B.C.
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The baby deer named Friday was delivered by Sean Steele, who was travelling from his family home in Barrhead, Alta. to Prince Rupert, B.C. when a pickup ahead of him struck a deer on the B.C. highway.
Steele jumped out to help move the doe's body to the ditch. That's when he noticed some movement. Acting quickly, he freed and resuscitated the newborn deer.
Following the advice of conservation officials, Steele's family took the newborn fawn to the Northern Lights Wildlife Society refuge, about 110 km away. Manager Angelika Langen said fawns come into the shelter's care often due to train or vehicle accidents — but she said Friday's birth story is singular.
"This is the first one we've ever gotten as a cesarean," she said. "It was kind of unusual to have somebody attempting that."
Langen credits Steele's previous experience working with cattle for giving him the courage to attempt the roadside surgery.
"But I'm sure glad he did. He couldn't do anything wrong, because the fawn would have died one way or the other."
'This is just the beginning'
One week after her unusual birth, Langen said Friday is in good health and good spirits, and is enjoying the company of the society's other rescue fawn, a young male.
"He wasn't so sure about her at first when she came in because she tried nursing from him, and that really confused him greatly, but she's over that now so they're good friends."
In the next month, the shelter's little deer herd is expected to grow.
"This is just the beginning of the deer and moose season," Langen said. "Usually we get most of them from the middle of June through the middle of July. We're quite prepared and expecting to get more."
Each of the fawns in the shelter's care are bottle-fed for months a special imported formula made just for deer. The centre's location next to a national park means that its enclosures offer plenty of natural outdoor space for animals with minimal human contact.
Outside of feedings, human contact is minimized to few people as possible to prevent the fawns from habituating to people.
In September, both fawns will be put into the shelter's slow release program, where they will spend more and more time outdoors to acclimatize to life in the woods. The fawns are brought in at night for safety reasons, though.
"The mother would still be watching over them at that point (in the wild)," Langen said. "We just mimic the natural behaviour, and within a couple of months they wander off and do their own thing."
By November or December, Langen expects them to be fully independent.
Langen estimates the survival rate for deer and moose in the program to be about 75 per cent. She said many animals raised at the centre come back for visits.
Leave sleeping fawns where they lie
She and her husband Peter Langen started the Northern Lights Wildlife Society 26 years ago when they heard of two baby moose that were shot after their mother was killed by a train. Both former zoo workers, the Langens decided to offer their services to prevent future deaths.
"From there on, it just grew beyond our wildest imaginations," Langen said. "We see the wildlife shelter as a tool to minimize our human footprint."
These days, the shelter's four volunteers are taking care of 20 bear cubs, two fawns and numerous woodchucks, small mammals and birds.
They also advocate for building and maintaining healthy relationships between humans and the wild animals they come across.
While Steele's roadside surgery doubtless saved Friday's life, Langen is quick to caution others against picking up or moving fawns they find in the wild.
"Especially at this time of year when the fawns are newborns, the mother can leave them for several hours lying somewhere in the grass. They don't move, they just lie there quietly, and to the untrained eye, that might look like they're sick.
"But it's actually just a protection against the predators."
She recommends concerned individuals monitor any found fawns for several hours. They should also make contact with a local wildlife shelter before taking any action.