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Keep Maryland’s Wildlife Wild and Safe: Handling Fawns is Dangerous and Illegal

Photo of fawn laying in the woods

Photo by by Lori Crisler, submitted to the 2021 Maryland DNR Photo Contest.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources cautions anyone who encounters a fawn to avoid disturbing it and resist the urge to feed or handle it. Removing deer from the wild and keeping them in captivity is against the law in Maryland to protect animal welfare and ensure public safety. 

Deer are born with specialized adaptations, which have helped their species survive for ages. Born in 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 the fawn when it is safe.

“Captivity can lead to malnutrition, injury, and stress for wildlife. Deer in particular do not handle the stress of human interaction and can die in the process of being helped by well-meaning citizens,” Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Karina Stonesifer said. “Wildlife may pose human health risks and become dangerous as they mature. Help us keep Maryland’s wildlife wild and safe.” 

More information on fawns and how to handle an encounter with them can be found on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service website. 

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