Rhode Island DEM Urges Public: Leave Baby Animals Alone

The Rhode Island DEM is issuing a reminder to the public: discovering a baby animal, especially a fawn, does not mean it requires rescuing. A fawn lying hidden in grass or brush is not abandoned and should be left undisturbed by people and pets. Interfering with a fawn can result in its permanent separation from its mother, jeopardizing its survival.

White-tailed deer give birth to fawns in May and June, leading to a surge in calls to DEM about seemingly abandoned fawns. According to DEM, these concerns are almost always unfounded.

“In nature, a doe gives birth and for the next five to seven days, the fawn is incapable of following the doe, so it is natural for the fawn to lie in a curled ‘freeze’ position on the ground hidden in grass or sparse brush,” explained Dylan Ferreira, a wildlife biologist in DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). “Well-intentioned people often assume the fawn is abandoned and take it home to ‘save’ it from predators or domestic animals. However, the doe is usually nearby and will return to the fawn a few times during the day or after dark to feed it. If you see a fawn in this condition, please leave it alone. The mother will return to feed and care for it.”

After seven to ten days, fawns may run when approached, and after a month, they can follow and feed alongside the doe. Handling or moving fawns during this critical period can doom young deer. Unless a dead doe is found nearby, the fawn is not considered abandoned. More information on white-tailed deer in Rhode Island is available in the wildlife factsheet here.

If you find a fawn, immediately leave the area to avoid disturbing it. “Fawns should not be handled – and counterintuitive as it may seem – do not need your help. Fawns are well camouflaged and have very little scent, which helps protect them from predators,” Ferreira emphasized.

Fawns lie motionless when approached by predators, a survival adaptation. The doe-fawn bond is strong. If a fawn is perceived to be in immediate danger, such as lying in the middle of a road, observe from a safe distance. The fawn may move once you back away. If the fawn remains in an unsafe area, contact DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement’s 24-hour dispatch at 401-222-3070 for guidance.

Occasionally, a fawn may approach people or pets. In such cases, DEM advises leaving the area immediately. The doe will avoid the area until it is clear and will return to care for the fawn.

Keeping fawns as pets is illegal in Rhode Island. Wild deer suffer in captivity, experiencing malnutrition and behavioral changes, and may become dangerous as they mature. Tame deer struggle to reintegrate into the wild. Injured fawns should be reported to the Wildlife Clinic of Rhode Island at 401-294-6363.

Feeding wildlife is also illegal in Rhode Island due to risks of poor nutrition, disease, human-wildlife conflicts, and unsustainable wildlife populations.




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