Stay away from Whidbey fawns, experts say

The first two weeks of May is when Whidbey Island sees an increase in the number of adorable and seemingly helpless baby deer.

Despite the human urge to gather them up and protect them when they appear abandoned, state and county officials urge people to keep away.

“The bottom line is leave them alone,” said Ralph Downes, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer who lives on Whidbey Island.

Carol Barnes, Island County’s animal control officer, said she has encountered this issue twice in the past week.

In one instance, the fawn was picked up by a resident, which puts human scent on the animal, Barnes said. The mother deer appeared and when the fawn was placed on the ground, it kept following the resident instead of its mother.

“We believe people have good intentions but they’re doing more harm than good,” Barnes said.

Downes said that humans like to personify animals and assume that a fawn that appears to be alone is in danger. This is not the case, Downes said. The mother deer purposefully put the fawn in a place that is safe.

“It allows the mom to go off and do her thing without putting the baby in jeopardy,” Downes said.

The issue is similar to when seal pups are found on the beach and people believe they are abandoned. In that same vein, Downes said the mother has placed its young there so she can feed and the baby can rest.

“Whether we’re talking a seal or a fawn, more often than not the little ones are okay,” Downes said.