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MailTribune.com
  • Mishandled fawns need to be reintroduced to the wild

    Wildlife officials, rehabilitators try to restore the natural order of mishandled fawns
  • The spotted black-tailed deer fawn is literally too cute for its own good, and now only Jody Raines' special version of tough love can save him.
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  • The spotted black-tailed deer fawn is literally too cute for its own good, and now only Jody Raines' special version of tough love can save him.
    The tiny buck was scooped out of the woods near Hyatt Lake during the Fourth of July weekend by a Medford man who took it home, improperly fed it goat's milk and habituated it to people before an Oregon State Police trooper confiscated it July 13.
    As the region's only deer rehabilitator, Raines is the agent of last resort. She has seven weeks to turn this Bambified buck into a real deer — one with a healthy diet, a healthy immune system and a healthy fear of humans.
    "Our job is to keep them as afraid of humans as possible," says Raines, of Selma. "When they're here, they get no human handling. We need to make them as untamed as possible when we release them. Tame deer die."
    Summer marks the season when Rogue Valley residents end up loving deer to death by violating the mantra of leaving baby wildlife in the wild.
    Last month the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife logged eight cases in which residents picked up deer they found around their homes, mistakenly believing these animals were abandoned by does or orphaned by a predator or car bumper.
    What the residents failed to realize is that it's common practice for does to leave fawns to go off and forage for hours at a time, then to return and feed their offspring, says Steve Niemela, an ODFW wildlife biologist.
    "People often perceive them as abandoned, but 99 percent of the time they're not," Niemela says. "Their inclination is to hide, and sometimes they think they're hiding in your yard."
    Those who handle fawns are told to put them back where they found them. In still more cases, those discovering a deer will call Niemela, who tells them simply to leave them alone.
    "What we don't want people to do is pick them up and then call us," Niemela says.
    Most people who illegally take in wildlife are let off with a warning to ignore that animal-savior sensation when they come by baby wildlife.
    "It's such a heart-tugging kind of thing," Niemela says.
    The more egregious ones get citations, with the OSP so far citing a person who took in a young green heron and the man who took the young buck that ended up at Raines' facility.
    Tiffany Morey is a rehab trainee working under Raines and she has five fawns facing similar uphill battles as those in Selma.
    The deer are kept in a covered kennel but also have some outside space in a pen. She's bottle-feeding them formula, but putting the bottles on a rack to reduce the human interaction as much as possible.
    "I try to get in and out and give them no attention," says Morey, a retired Las Vegas cop living in the Greensprings.
    When she approaches the kennel, the little fawns bound toward the gate in glee.
    "They see me and they know the bottles are coming and they go all crazy," Morey says.
    Raines has 12 fawns in her care.
    Both sets will be released under ODFW supervision as far away from humans as Raines and Morey can get.
    If the pair have weaned the fawns off humans, the animals have a chance to survive.
    Raines has a 50 percent success rate on fawns surviving at least a month.
    "It's simply not optimum to have them come into care," she says.
    While cases of people taking fawns from the wild has dropped locally over the past two decades, there are still more than enough who mistakenly believe a lone fawn is alone, interject themselves into the ways of the wild and turn their caring heart into a death knell.
    "I blame Disney," Raines says. "A lot."
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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