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Maryland Department of Natural Resources Urges Residents to Leave Wild Fawns Alone

Handling Fawns is Usually Unnecessary, Often Dangerous, and Always Illegal

Photo of fawn resting in the woods

Photo by Andrew Gue, submitted to a past Maryland Department of Natural Resources Photo Contest.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources cautions anyone who encounters a fawn that may appear abandoned to resist the urge to feed or handle the animal. 

“While fawns are cute, they are wild animals with very specific needs, and human interaction can be detrimental to their long term well-being,” said Acting Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Karina Stonesifer.  “Removing deer from the wild and keeping them in captivity is also against the law in Maryland.”

Deer are born with specialized adaptations, which have helped their species survive for ages. Born during spring, fawns instinctively lie motionless when approached by potential predators, relying on their adaptations to help them hide. Their virtual lack of odor, natural camouflage (spots), and freezing behavior help them avoid danger. These adaptations serve them well, as evidenced by the abundance of deer across Maryland’s varied landscapes. 

Despite this effective strategy, inquisitive fawns will sometimes explore new surroundings and may appear to be lost or orphaned. There is usually no need for human intervention since in most cases the doe is nearby foraging and will return to nurse her fawn when it is safe. 

Deer in particular do not handle the stress of human interaction and can die in the process of being helped by well-meaning citizens. Captivity can lead to malnutrition, injury, and stress for wildlife and deer may pose human health risks and become dangerous as they mature.

More information on fawns and how to handle an encounter with them can be found on the department’s website

Anyone with questions about fawns, or other young wild animals, is encouraged to call the state’s wildlife hotline at 877-463-6497.