Of­fi­cials say not to dis­turb fawns as the mother deer of­ten nearby

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JU­LIA BROUILLETTE

It’s the sea­son when soli­tary baby deer may be seen nes­tled in the tall grasses of high­way me­di­ans or the lightly wooded ar­eas of lo­cal parks — and Fair­fax County Po­lice have is­sued a warn­ing for wouldbe “fawn kid­nap­pers.”

“If you see a fawn that ap­pears aban­doned, leave it alone,” county po­lice said in a news re­lease.

Deer leave their fawns for ex­tended pe­ri­ods while they for­age, mean­ing that seem­ingly de­serted fawns have not ac­tu­ally been aban­doned.

Katherine Ed­wards, Fair­fax County’s wildlife man­age­ment spe­cial­ist, said her depart­ment usu­ally re­ceives sev­eral calls through­out the summer from con­cerned res­i­dents who mis­tak­enly try to rescue fawns.

“People come across a cute baby deer by it­self, and they think they’re do­ing a good thing by check­ing on it,” she said. “But al­most al­ways, the fawn is fine and they’d rather not be both­ered.”

Ap­proach­ing a wild deer, re­gard­less of its age, causes un­nec­es­sary stress for the an­i­mal, Ms. Ed­wards said.

While baby deer are un­likely to show ag­gres­sion to­ward people, pet­ting them is still risky for any­one un­lucky enough to en­counter a pro­tec­tive mother deer, said Nel­son La­fon, deer project co­or­di­na­tor at the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Game and In­land Fish­eries.

“Adult fe­male deer do at­tack and can in­jure hu­mans who ap­proach their young,” Mr. La­fon said.

In most cases, baby deer do not need to be res­cued — those who at­tempt to handle or cap­ture fawns are putting them­selves and the an­i­mals at risk, he said.

“There are al­ways in­her­ent dan­gers to han­dling a fawn deer that could re­sult in cuts from their sharp hooves or by caus­ing in­jury to the fawn while it strug­gles to break free,” he said, adding that fawns cap­tured by hu­mans have a much lower sur­vival rate than those left in the wild.

Cap­tured fawns that are not quickly re­leased back to their moth­ers can lose their fear of hu­mans and be­come pub­lic safety risks, Mr. La­fon said.

Ac­cord­ing to data col­lected by the State Farm in­surance com­pany, deer al­ready pose a sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic safety risk to driv­ers in the region.

Us­ing claims data and state li­censed driver counts, State Farm de­ter­mined that Vir­ginia ranks 13th over­all in the coun­try for most po­ten­tial ve­hi­cle-deer col­li­sions. The odds of driv­ers in Mary­land hit­ting a deer over a 12-month pe­riod are 1-in-139.

Re­gional wildlife agen­cies em­ploy deer pop­u­la­tion man­age­ment pro­grams to re­duce the num­ber of white-tailed deer, us­ing hunt­ing as the pri­mary method of pop­u­la­tion con­trol.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice, a healthy forest thresh­old for deer is 15 to 20 per square mile. In the last decade, the num­ber of deer in Rock Creek Park has sky­rock­eted, reach­ing 100 deer per square mile.

Since 2013, the Na­tional Park Ser­vice has de­creased the area’s deer pop­u­la­tion from nearly 80 per square mile to roughly 19 per square mile.

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