Animal Tales: What should I do if I see an injured deer or fawn?

Question: What should I do if I see an injured deer or fawn?

Answer: It can be distressing to see an injured deer on your property, in a field, on the side of the road or even in traffic. Many people’s first instinct is to approach the animal to try to help. Don’t!

Deer are extremely sensitive animals. They are prey animals and get scared easily. Adult deer are very strong and can cause severe injury to themselves and to those trying to help them. They can be dangerous when they feel trapped or are in an unsafe environment, and they will use their defense tactics to try to escape and protect themselves.

The public should not attempt to handle, catch, free or restrain an injured deer.

Many calls received by the Whatcom Humane Society animal control department and wildlife rehabilitation services center are from concerned people reporting deer with injured legs. In many cases, deer with injured, even broken, legs can and will self-heal and function on their own. They can still run, jump and reproduce. It can be dangerous to both wildlife rehabilitators and deer to try to capture these animals.

A licensed wildlife rehabilitator and trained staff can tranquilize an injured deer — if the deer is severely debilitated, not mobile or is entangled. A tranquilized deer that is able to run away after being tranquilized is at risk of suffering a heart attack, as high levels of lactic acid can build up in the animal’s system and cause a condition called capture myopathy.

Spring and summer is fawn season in Whatcom County. Fawns are considered orphaned and in need of care if they are crying, wandering around, moving around to different areas, have noticeable injuries or if their mother is dead or severely injured.

If fawns are seen curled up next to something, especially in long grass, and if they are breathing normally they are most likely just fine. Mother deer will leave fawns in one spot for up to 4 to 6 hours. The mother deer may not return to her fawn if there are humans or pets around the area. Fawns should not be fed or handled.

These animals have very specific diet requirements. Feeding them can cause bloat, diarrhea, dehydration and other issues that can lead to death. In addition, a fawn or deer that has strongly imprinted on people runs a higher risk of being hunted, hit by a car or attacked in the wild.

If you see a deer or fawn that needs assistance, contact the Whatcom Humane Society wildlife rehabilitation services center at 360-966-8845.

If you live outside of Whatcom County, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area or your local animal control provider.

For a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators, visit the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife website at