Canadians mistakenly delivering baby deer to shelters

Wildlife experts across the country are urging people to let sleeping fawns lie as several people from Windsor, Ont., to Edmonton, Alb., have delivered the babies to shelters.

'You can kill something with kindness,' expert warns those with good intentions

A fawn drinks from a baby bottle at Wings Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Amherstburg, Ont. (Wings WIldlife Rehabilitation Centre/Facebook)

Wildlife experts across the country are urging people to let sleeping fawns lie this summer.

They say they've been receiving dozens of calls about baby deer people believe are abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

Several people from Windsor, Ont., to Edmonton have delivered the babies to shelters.

It's also been a problem that's been reported on in Virginia. The practice has been dubbed "fawn-napping."

Experts say there is no cause for alarm if someone comes across a fawn, alone and nestled in tall grass. Stepping in can do more harm than good.

Erie Wildlife Rescue, just east of Windsor, is receiving multiple calls a day from people worried about fawns on their property or in nearby woodlots this spring and summer.

They look helpless and most people say they haven't seen the mother in a couple of days.

It turns out, that's totally normal.

"When a fawn is born, they actually have very little body odour, so the mother puts it in a safe spot and the fawn instinctively stays still. It doesn't move," Ellen Hedges, Animal Care Manager at Erie Wildlife Rescue, said. "A predator can walk right by and he can't smell it. He can't see it. And so, it's safe. That's what they do."

Windsor and Essex County has a healthy deer population. It's so high at Point Pelee National Park, it conducts an annual cull.

'Basic human nature'

Meanwhile, about 3,000 km west, well-intentioned Edmontonians are also fretting over fawns.

This is just one of the fawns that has come into the care of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton. (Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre of Edmonton/Facebook )

"It's basic human emotion to help a young animal that we perceive to be helpless, that we see alone," Kim Blomme, of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton,  said during a recent interview on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "It's important that we try to understand those animals, and how they live and when to help.

"And sometimes helping them means leaving them alone."

Her agency has been getting an increasing number of calls from residents worried over the fate of abandoned fawns this season.

Blomme says although the animals may appear abandoned, it's normal for does to leave their young unattended for hours at a time as they forage for food.

The mother is usually within earshot, and will return eventually to nurse.

Killing with kindness

If captured, the fawn will soon fall into a weakened state, Blomme said. Many fail to thrive, and some even die in those first days of captivity.

"You can kill something with kindness," she said.

Melanie Coulter, executive director Windsor Humane Society, said there are very few times people should trap a fawn and bring it to a shelter or rehab centre.

"Only if the fawn is following people around and crying, covered with flies, or something," she said. "That would indicate that the animal needs assistance. But otherwise, the best advice is to leave them alone and very likely, by the next day, the mom will have come and moved the fawn off to another location."

With files from Laura DaSilva