Oh Deer! It’s Fawn Season!

Author: Whidbey Camano Land Trust | 06/18/20
       

Fawn

Fawns, like this one on Central Whidbey, have white spots along their backs and sides. Photo by Jennifer Holmes.

Whidbey and Camano islands are home to more than 3,000 black-tailed deer. These deer are a source of joy for some and frustration for others, but one thing is indisputable: The fawns are incredibly cute.

June is a time when you’ll often see these new babies on the islands. Fawns are easily distinguishable from other deer because they’re tinier, softer, and have white spots speckled along their backs and sides.

Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionous), also commonly known as a mule deer, breed in November and December and give birth about six months later. Fawns are precocial animals, meaning they are able to walk almost immediately after birth. So why do we often find fawns lying motionless alone in the grass in June?

Simple answer: It’s a survival tactic.

Fawn

A deer fawn is discovered alone on South Whidbey Island. When fawns are found like this, it’s important to not touch them and leave them be, said Ruth Milner, State Fish and Wildlife district biologist.

For the first few weeks of a fawn’s life, they do not produce an odor that can be detected by predators.  Therefore, the only way for a predator to find a fawn during this time is to visually spot them or smell their mothers. So, fawns hide by lying flat on ground with their ears back and remain as motionless as possible. In fact, fawns have been reported to lower their heart rates and temporarily suspend breathing when discovered by humans. They blend in as much as possible with their surroundings. This is also why it’s believed that does watch and bed down away from their fawns.

Mother and fawn

A doe and her fawn. Photo by Jann Ledbetter.

If you stumble across a fawn that is by itself, the best thing to do is to leave it alone, said Ruth Milner, district wildlife biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Handling a deer fawn can have dire consequences. Human scent can cause a doe to abandon her fawn.

Well-intentioned people often try to intervene when they find deer fawns or harbor seal pups unaccompanied by a parent, believing they’ve been abandoned, Milner said.

“The prognosis for survival once they are picked up and taken somewhere to ‘help’ them, is not good,” Milner said.

If you think a fawn might be abandoned or sick, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator such as Useless Bay Animal Clinic, in Freeland, or Sarvy Wildlife Care Center, in Arlington.

Other Things in Nature You Might See on the Islands in June

Divebombing Blackbirds: Look out! Brewer’s Blackbirds (Euphagus cyanocephalus) are very protective of their young this time of year. If you find yourself being attacked by the birds, you’re likely very near a nest.

Cedar Waxwings: Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorumare) are attracted to berry-laden trees and hedges and could conceivably be found in Island County any time of year. More typically, however, Cedar Waxwings ( are migratory, arriving locally in late May and peaking in late June.

Western Tanagers: These beautiful songbirds are strictly migratory and first arrive on the islands in May with the last of them departing by late October. Unlike Cedar Waxwings, Western Tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana) are solitary. They will come to feeders, especially for suet.

Volunteer

Volunteer with us

Get out in nature! Make new friends! Find out what great land stewardship is all about. The Land Trust is always on the lookout for people who are as passionate about caring for land as we are.

Sign up today!

View our work party schedule