Will a Doe Adopt an Orphaned Fawn?

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More often than not, does have been spotted continuously tending to fawns, not their own, begging the question, will a doe adopt an orphaned fawn? A doe will certainly adopt an orphaned fawn and take care of it as though it were its baby.

While there has never been any documented case of a wild doe conceiving and giving birth to more than three fawns, several cases of does spotted taking care of more than four fawns. Mostly, the fawns who get care from others, who aren’t their mothers, have always either lost track of their mothers or lost them to death.

A doe will easily ‘babysit’ a fawn hoping it will get to its mother in due time, but the doe will opt to take in the orphaned fawn if they don’t. They ‘nurse’, feed, and even sleep together with the orphaned fawn just like they could do with their fawns.

Should Humans Rescue Orphaned Fawns?

It is okay to rescue an orphaned fawn, but this should be done under the law’s constraints of where a hunter comes from. However, how do you tell if a fawn is orphaned or not? Identifying an orphaned fawn may be difficult unless you find it lying next to its dead mother or experience the mother dying immediately after birth.

If you happen to come across a fawn next to a doe, you just hunted down, do not rush into rescuing the fawn as it may not belong to the doe you just hunted. However, you should study the fawn over some time and monitor its behavior to know if it is orphaned or not.

An orphaned fawn will be distressed over time to indicate that it is in trouble. Within a day or two, the fawn will become dehydrated, and this will be made evident by their curly ears, dull eyes, and ruffled fur. The ears will curl first due to a lack of nursing services from the mother. The fawn’s ears will first dry at the rounded edges and will begin to roll back at their tips.

How to Identify an Abandoned/Orphaned Fawn

Identifying an abandoned or orphaned fawn may demand that you follow the following guides.

Be Attentive

Once you have spotted a fawn alone, you should take some minutes to evaluate the surrounding situation. Check whether it is restless or comfortable, crying, or relaxed? Check to see if the mother is somewhere around grazing, or the fawn is alone. If you have confirmed that the fawn is isolated, you may go ahead and start the rescue process after studying it. 

Approach it with Care

Approach the fawn and check if it is physically well. You can pinch its skin between the shoulder blades, and if the skin should go back into place immediately, you release it. If it doesn’t, then the fawn is probably dehydrated.

Also, check inside the fawn’s mouth to ascertain if the saliva is thin and flowing and not otherwise. The inside of the mouth should also feel warm as a cold one would indicate the fawn is experiencing hypothermia.

Patience is Key

If you have done everything to know whether the fawn is abandoned or not, and still can’t get a clear answer, then it is time to wait and keep watch. Does always leave their fawns for up to 10 hours without attending to them, and this fawn you are monitoring may be such a case. You may have to keep watching for that long if you want to help the fawn out of any impending danger.

What Challenges Should You Expect from an Orphaned Fawn?

Rescuing a fawn is the first step towards a long caring journey you are going to have with the fawn. There are several things you should expect to observe in an orphaned fawn after rescuing it. They include:

Physical Injuries

Once left to care and tend for themselves, it is common for fawns to acquire some physical injuries in their quest to survive. Scratches could cause injuries from animal attacks or fractured limbs earned when running for safety. Since they don’t have their mothers around to nurse them, the infected limbs may attract maggots and bacteria.

If you rescue a fawn in this condition, you should move with speed and get treatment services from a veterinary officer or a wildlife rehabilitator.

Illnesses and Threatening Conditions

One of the common illnesses that are a significant threat to a fawn is diarrhea. The fawn you rescued is more likely to diarrhea due to poor feeding. Take prompt measures to curb diarrhea in the early stages to avoid the death of the fawn.

Another threat is maggots. Flies get attracted to soiled fur around the fawn’s face and tail, releasing maggots that will enter the fawn’s body. Once they are inside, they will start eating the maggots alive. If this goes on unnoticed and not taken care of for some time, the fawn might die.

Postures and Hunger Cries

A resting fawn will always remain in a lying curled up position. Otherwise, they would lie on their abdomen, flattening themselves to the ground. However, if you find it lying flat on its side with legs stretched out, it may be in extreme distress.

When hungry, the fawn will cry, hoping that its mother will return to feed it even after rescuing it. The cries will continue and become more extreme with time until some help arrives for the fawn. Crying fawns may also be expressing some other needs such as water or some care. You should be cautious when handling them, and extreme care should be employed to see them survive.


While it is true that a doe will adopt an orphaned fawn; such cases are always rare. Mostly, orphaned fawns would die due to diseases and majorly in predators’ paws. Your prompt discovery of an orphaned fawn may be it’s only chance of survival. This, therefore, means you should never leave a fawn you highly suspect to be orphaned alone in the wild.

Once you are certain the fawn is orphaned, move to the closest rescue center.

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