Tommy with Fawn
Raising Wild Things

Tommy Garner

The first time I saw her, she was small and petite, covered with bright white spots, some in distinct rows and others randomly scattered on her soft brown skin. Her huge eyes were unusual blue color, her wet nose was shiny black, and she weighed no more than a couple of pounds. When she stood, she waddled back and forth on thin legs that appeared to be much too long for such a small creature. Wanda proclaimed "We will call her Destiny", so the orphaned whitetail fawn, whose mother had been hit by a car, now had a new family, and the Garner family had a new member.
Tommy and Michele Leqve admiring a newborn fawn

Wanda and I both knew somewhat about raising fawns, but we were unprepared to have a newborn deer, especially one that was hungry. Wanda raced off to town to buy goat's milk and a baby bottle with the smallest nipple possible. In an hour or two, the fawn got her first taste of goat’s milk via an eyedropper. To help her bond with us, I sat for hours with her cradled in my lap, feeding her with the eyedropper. Destiny did not have the hang of sucking on a baby bottle and it took her a while, but when she discovered that the harder she sucked, the more milk she got, she really got with it. One unusual catch on sucking the baby bottle, though was the fact that she wanted to nurse on someone's earlobe before she fed from the bottle. It seemed to be a personal thing with her, like she would say "Ok, I'll eat from this lifeless bottle, but first I want at least to have some hint of the real thing."

Ceasar and Destiny playing
Soon, Destiny would prowl the house from one end to the other, get into everything, chase the dog, then the dog would chase her, play chase with the cat in the same manner as well and sometimes the dog, cat and deer would all run through the house with first one in the lead, then the other. Our cat, who was much bigger than the deer, especially liked to hide behind the furniture and pounce on the unsuspecting fawn. Then the chase would start again, each acting out their instincts, much the way it has happened in the wild for centuries. Only, our little group of creatures did everything in mock battle, never inflicting pain, or hurt to the other.Eventually, of course, we had to move the fawn outside, but she still had run of the house each day as we let her in to romp with the kids while we fed her. It was not unusual to be sitting at the computer and see a deer running down the hallway, streak across the living room and sail over the sectional, only to make a U turn and do it again. Most of the time there was a cat, a dog and a kid or two in the lineup as well.
Nature's camo... all decked out in spots!

In the early fall, I did not have the heart to wean the fawn, so while I was out of town on assignment for several weeks, Wanda took Destiny's bottle away. This was a relief for our family due to the fact that a fawn, especially a newborn, needs to nurse several times a day. When we first got Destiny, bottle-feeding was done every four hours during the day. This meant that if we were not home, the fawn did not get to nurse, so our first summer was spent not being gone anywhere for very long at a time until the fawn began to rely on hard food for her nourishment.

Though having a deer for a pet has been a wonderful experience for our family, I have discouraged many people from attempting to raise a fawn caught in the wild. Most do not understand that, because they see that I have successfully raised a fawn taken from the wilds and she has been a sheer joy to me and my family. What most don't understand is the commitment it takes to raise a baby deer to adulthood and at this point, the commitment gets even greater. I have heard stories of woe from people who have attempted to raise a fawn and failed in their attempt, bringing sadness to all, and the demise of the fawn.

A newborn baby fawn
It is the instinct of a fawn to hide and stay hidden until the doe comes to find it. It is the nature of the doe to bed away from the fawn to help prevent the scent free fawn from being found by predators. A fawn's first line of defense is to remain motionless, hence the ease of being caught by humans when discovered. Without knowing these facts, almost everyone who finds a fawn lying in the grass thinks the fawn has been abandoned. The truth is that the doe will be somewhere nearby and will return to the fawn when she decides. Does are very good mothers and they take excellent care of their babies. So, if you find a fawn, you need to stop and think about the fact that the fawn is not lost or abandoned, the commitment it will take to raise a fawn if you decide to catch it, and if you don't do everything that has to be done the fawn will die in your care. I strongly suggest that you admire the fawn without picking it up, back out of the area without leaving any more scent, and be thankful that you have had a close encounter of the whitetail kind.

Reprinted With Permission Paxton Media Group

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