Update – May 12, 2021
Wisconsin DNR Restricts Fawn Rehabilitation

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is requiring enhanced biosecurity for fawn rehabilitation in 2021, which includes mandatory release of fawn before winter and during hunting season, and at an age where all published studies show they have minimal chances of surviving past 30 days.  (If you are interested in a copy of these studies, e-mail wildrehab@fellowmortals.org).

In southeastern Wisconsin, rehabilitated fawn upon release will encounter high levels of traffic on the many roads that cut through what was once rural area, harsh winter conditions that make browse inaccessible to small deer, and predators including coyote and dogs, as well as human hunters.  In Walworth County, hunting “opportunities” did not end until January 31 of 2021.

Fellow Mortals has no issue with the biosecurity requirements, and in fact our entire animal care staff has been vaccinated — but we do object to the mandatory release of fawn in the fall, and to the requirement of an obvious tag, though we would not be averse to using a discrete metal tag that would achieve the same purpose of identification should a fawn be killed or found dead.

For all the years that Fellow Mortals has rehabilitated deer (1989-2003 and 2014-2020) we have released in the spring with the full knowledge of the Department.  We have not tagged rehabilitated fawn since 2014, when we built an expansive overwintering habitat at a remote location.  This enables us to move fawn as soon as they are weaned and when they are still young enough that they do not need to be drugged and mandatorily tagged.  (Many employees of the WDNR have seen our facilities and this specific habitat, which is unique to the fawn rehabilitators in Wisconsin).

This remote habitat encompasses one acre of hilly, wooded habitat with natural browse, and is equipped with freeze-proof automatic waterers and remote feeders.  Once the fawns are moved to this habitat, there is no further contact with humans.  Release is accomplished by opening a gate.

Fellow Mortals wrote to the Department and offered to increase our already comprehensive biosecurity as added protection against possible transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to the deer.  We also offered to tag with a discrete metal tag that would suffice to identify the deer if it was found dead and tested positive for the virus.  But we will not agree to releasing fawn when they are still of an age where they cannot fend off predators or find food in harsh winter conditions, in addition to being entirely naive as to hunters and roads.

The Department did not approve our proposal.

Why do we release in the spring?  The fawns who are orphaned and injured and come to rehabilitators lose something even more important than a wild mother when they come into rehabilitation:  They lose the ability to learn from the doe, which they would be following until the spring — learning how to avoid predators, where to find the best browse, where to bed down in safety for the night.

If you’ve ever seen an orphan fawn try to join a group that is feeding, you will see that the does aren’t kind to the orphan, and he or she will be kicked away and kept to the outskirts of the group.  We get calls every winter about these sad situations.

Fawns need their mothers to protect them, and to teach them.  In lieu of the doe, all we can provide is the company of other fawns.

We can’t do anything to teach the fawn about the sudden danger that hunting season brings with bows or guns, or how moving objects will suddenly overtake them on the smooth surfaces of roads, so it’s incredibly important we give them every other advantage.

All a rehabilitator can do for any wild being is try to even the odds that injury or orphaning brings by providing the best nutrition, the best care and housing, and the best choice of release habitat and season to give a real chance of surviving past the first few days in the wild.  Keeping the fawn safe in the winter months as their own small herd gives them a fighting chance in the spring.  (See the video below to view our overwintering habitat).

Wildlife rehabilitators are licensed by the WDNR but we pay the bills, we provide the care, we talk to you — the people who invest so much in the wild creature you have rescued from its fate — and we use our education, and our experience, as we put our lives and our hearts into the long days, weeks, or months of care necessary to turn tragedy into triumph for a wild one that recovers and is released.

We care deeply about the individual lives entrusted to us by you, and it’s not possible for us to care for an orphaned, injured fawn knowing that we must release it when it is not ready.

We will not be taking calls on fawns when we cannot help when we are needed.  Perhaps one day this will change.

Until then, if you find an injured or orphaned fawn, call Amanda Kamps, Wisconsin DNR at 608-712-5280.

While we always try to keep fawns with their mothers, injured and truly orphaned fawns must come into care.  We are grateful to a change in policy by the Wisconsin DNR that made it possible for us to help white-tailed deer fawns again starting in 2014.

Although we had experience, we no longer had facilities, so in the spring of 2015 we contracted with Pete Roth and his company to construct two half-acre habitats. The fences are 10 feet high and are surrounded by a stockade fence which covers the lower 6 feet, providing privacy and screening the fawns from human activity.


We want to offer our thanks to Dr. Tracy Busalacchi and Dr. Phil Burns for all their help, as well as to Dr. Candace Mathiason, University of Colorado, for diagnostics. Thanks also to Arthur Carlson, who built the fawn enclosure for their initial care.

We are grateful to those of you who donated to this project through
“Jilly’s Legacy,” including: Melita Frankfurth Grunow,
the Buchanan Family Foundation, Marisa & Dan Timm, Pete Roth Fence,
Lowes–Delavan, and the following:

Arthur Carlson
Holly Dempster
Darcy Minkler
Gerald Yager
Wren Ide
Kevin Watts
Tressa Goulding
Angela Farruggia
Lynn Draeger-Ivan

John Crombie
Tammy Alongi
Kelly Greb
Amy Frank
Linda Farmer
Zach Kastern
Roberta Bagni
Carol Sosenko
Lorrie A. Krodel

Toni Roucka
Laura Altmann
Karen Romanyk
Dorothy Bunch
Bryan Olson
Lisa Carlson
Megan Nass
Pamela Densch
Jennifer Wenberg

Liz Bauer
Angie Massaro
Elizabeth Kemper
Becky Redell
Joanne Gasperik
Cara Miller
Paula Harris
Dana Pederson
Kelley Van Egeren

Emma Jinyang Yu
Joseph Webster
Tedford Rose
Bob Helferrich
Beth Shodeen
…as well as several anonymous donors.

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