White-tailed Fawn

Fog began rolling across the large, mountain meadow, obscuring the road and our parked vehicle. We had been looking for fawns since early morning but on this particular morning had not found any. Without the sun or distant objects to keep oriented by, hiking in fog can be confusing. We started walking back toward the road. Suddenly my Mother stopped and announced, “There is a fawn!” What a beautiful spot for a fawn to be, curled in a tight ball beneath two, eighteen-inch tall ferns. The tiny fawn was only a couple of days old, at the most, as almost all one-week-old fawns will run when discovered. While we were taking photographs, the fog lifted. We were able to see that we had angled off course from the direction we intended to go. How glad we were for the fog that “caused” us to find this fawn. Big Meadows in the Shenandoah National Park has been a favorite place to look for hidden fawns. Usually the search begins at daylight by using binoculars to look over the vast meadow. Does are watched until one is found feeding a fawn. Fawns are watched until they lie down. Over the next hours I move in close to take the photos. When I know the specific spot a fawn is lying, I avoid walking directly toward it. Rather, I slowly angle in a zigzag pattern. One memorable morning I was able to photograph four different fawns. On another, a large bear wandered through possibly also looking for fawns. A second approach to finding fawns is to be friendly to other park visitors and ask them if they have seen any. It is surprising how often they can direct you to one. Did you ever wonder why fawns have spots when they are young but not when they are full-grown? Did you know that the mother deer will “spank” the fawn to make it obey, if necessary? Why do they lie motionless? When is a deer not a ruminant? At birth, the coat of hair is the same reddish brown of all other deer, except for two rows of white spots along both sides of the backbone and randomly over both sides. The hairs making up the white spots are not white all the way to the root, rather only on the ends. As the fawn grows older, the white ends wear away even before the summer coat is shed for the winter coat. A fawn curled up on the forest floor camouflages nicely with dappled sunlight. They are also nearly free of scent. One way the doe “helps” them to remain free of scent is to eat the fawn’s excrement as it nurses. Between feedings, the fawn lies hidden while the doe leaves the immediate vicinity. This helps to keep predators that have located her from finding her fawns. People finding hidden fawns often mistakenly think the fawn has been orphaned. Every year there are stories of people finding fawns without their mothers, taking them home, raising them, etc. Unless it is clearly known that a fawn is orphaned, it should be left alone. Don’t touch wild fawns. EnDEERing notes: * Milk from a good Jersey cow has 5-6 percent butterfat; a deer has 11-12 percent, which will rise to about 18% before the fawn is weaned. Fawns raised in captivity have often been fed milk that is far less nutritious. * A newborn fawn has a short muzzle and long, wobbly legs. * A fawn can stagger a few steps within ten minutes of birth. * A doe usually has a single fawn for her first, then twins thereafter. If food is in short supply, she will likely return to having only one fawn or none at all. * The first few weeks of a fawn’s life, it does not chew its cud, as its only diet is milk. Once it begins eating vegetation, it becomes a ruminant. * Between one and two weeks of age, a fawn will often try to follow the mother after a feeding. Usually the mother is not ready to have the fawn follow her yet and she will use her head or a forefoot placed directly on its back to force the fawn to lie down. “Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11

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