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Fawn at fawns from as far away as possible

OUTDOORS --

July 13, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

Every year, the state agencies send out press releases asking outdoors writers to remind folks to leave young wildlife alone.

With more and more people out enjoying the nice weather, encounters between wildlife and humans are more common.

The typical reaction when finding a baby animal is to assume that it has been abandoned its mother. In most cases, it is an example of the way that nature protects the baby.

Many people do not know that a baby fawn spends most of its time alone the first few days of its life. The mother places it in a safe place and returns every few hours to nurse the baby and clean up its waste.

As protection from predators, young fawns have little scent, so they are safer if the mother stays away from them until they are strong enough to travel with the mother, and fast enough to outrun predators, including dogs and coyotes.

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Last week, my wife and I encountered a baby fawn that may have appeared abandoned. We were walking past a neighbors' lot on the river and noticed an out-of-place brown blob in the freshly mowed grass.

Closer inspection from about 10-15 yards away revealed a very small fawn hunkered down in the short grass, doing its best to hide in the sparse cover. We left the fawn undisturbed and the mother returned and the pair moved out a little while later. Hopefully, she picked a spot with better cover to leave her baby the next time.

Fawns seem to be a little later this summer than in the past, or maybe it's my memory that is off. We also have a doe with triplets in our area, which is not very common. They usually have two fawns and many times they lose one of them when they are small.

The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources reminded people recently to leave young wildlife undisturbed, in particular baby fawns: "The DNR receives more calls about abandoned fawns than any other wildlife. Unfortunately, many people often mistake a bedded fawn, with no mother in sight, as abandoned. Remember, not moving is an important defense tactic of fawns. Their spot pattern, coloration and lack of scent make the fawn difficult for predators to detect. If a predator comes by, the fawn will freeze until the threat has passed, or it will wait until the very last moment to flee to safety if spotted. Fawns should always be left undisturbed. If you are certain that the fawn's mother is unable to care for it or has been killed, call your local DNR office, conservation officer or wildlife manager."

West Virginia Spring Gobbler Season



The West Virgina DNR has announced that hunters bagged 9,895 turkeys during the 2008 spring gobbler season, nearly equaling the 9,965 birds taken in 2007.

The spring's five counties were Mason (396), Preston (371), Jackson (319), Wood (316) and Harrison (291). Thirty-five of the state's 55 counties had lower harvests this year.

Prior to the season, West Virginia biologists had predicted a slightly higher spring gobbler harvest in 2008. This was based on better-than-average brood reports the past two years, but cold and rainy weather apparently hampered gobbling activity in many areas of the state.

The DNR also said that hunting pressure in many areas of the state was lower than normal, which may have been a reflection of high gas prices and the cool and rainy weather for much of the season.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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