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Urban herd goes forth to multiply: It’s fawning season in the East Kootenay

Conservation Officers are reminding concerned animal lovers that it’s normal for newborn fawns to be left alone by their mothers.  - Townsman file/Gerry MacIntyre photo
Conservation Officers are reminding concerned animal lovers that it’s normal for newborn fawns to be left alone by their mothers.
— image credit: Townsman file/Gerry MacIntyre photo

It's that time of the spring: fawns are being born right now around Cranbrook and Kimberley, and local Conservation Officers want to get the word out.

The message is double: first, remember that a newborn fawn on its own is not necessarily orphaned.

And more importantly, watch for aggressive does and turn around if you encounter one.

Conservation Officer Jared Connatty said that fawns began to be born last week and will continue for about the next week.

“So now is a really critical time,” he said.

Connatty said that already the Conservation Officer Service has been receiving lots of calls about orphaned fawns.

“People see a fawn laying there and they automatically assume that is an orphaned fawn,” he said.

“Just because you see a fawn laying there does not mean that it’s abandoned.

“It’s perfectly natural for a doe to leave that fawn in one spot for hours – up to a day or so – to go and forage on her own.”

Connatty said that after giving birth, does will leave their fawns to go off and feed, which they can do more effectively on their own.

Fawns, like elk calves, are born scentless – a natural defence mechanism that makes it difficult for predators to find them. When they lie in long grass, their spots help to camouflage them.

“It allows the doe to get away and forage and potentially evade predators – leave the fawn stationary and draw predators away,” said Connatty.

It’s important not to touch or move a newborn fawn you may encounter, he went on.

“If you move that fawn or relocate it, the doe doesn’t know where you’ve put it,” he said. “She’s leaving it in a strategic place so she knows where to come back and get it.”

Connatty has seen cases where a doe left her fawn for a day and a half, but did come back for it.

A more concerning public warning is for Cranbrook and Kimberley residents to beware of does that may be protecting newborn fawns at this time of year.

“Aggressive deer is more concerning to us because it’s a public safety matter,” said Connatty.

“Right now, when they have fawns they become very defensive and protective of that fawn.”

People who are accompanied by a dog should be particularly alert, he went on.

“Dogs trigger a defence response when there is a fawn in the area for that doe. It’s a natural response. A dog is the same as a coyote to her, and it could be a potential threat to her fawn.”

Avoidance is the key if you encounter a doe who seems to be on edge.

“It’s really important for folks to recognize that if they see a doe that has her ears perked up and she seems to be looking around and on guard, well, she probably is and it’s time to take a different road or trail.”

If your dog is attacked by a doe, drop the leash, Connatty said, because it is safer for you and gives your dog a better chance of getting away.

“First off, you want that dog to be able to escape on its own and you’re not doing him any favours if you’re holding him up from escaping from the deer. Second, you put yourself in jeopardy when you become involved with the attack.”

To help your dog, try to scare the deer off by yelling and throwing things at it.

“Those are all appropriate things,” said Connatty. “But it’s important to take people’s safety as the main priority.”

You can report aggressive deer and other wildlife issues to the Conservation Officer Service by phoning 1-877-952-7277.

Meanwhile, the City of Cranbrook is giving residents advice to protect their yard from deer damage.

The urban deer population – both mule and white tail deer – are active in many areas of the community this spring, looking to make a meal out of many plants and shrubs.

Mule deer eat a variety of herbaceous plants and grasses during the summer, even though they are primarily browsers of shrubs.

There are a few techniques that can be used to protect your property from deer damage.

“With a combination of landscaping with deer resistant plants, fencing, hazing techniques and deer repellents, you can protect your property from deer damage,” said Mayor Wayne Stetski. “Fencing is really the only guaranteed method to preventing damage from deer in your yard.”

In Cranbrook, bylaws limit the height of fences in the front yard to one metre, and 1.8 metres in side and back yards.

Local nurseries can help you choose deer resistant plants for the local climate.

The City of Cranbrook has an information brochure, “Living with Urban Deer”, which is available for pick up at City Hall or by downloading a copy at www.cranbrook.ca.

The Ministry of Environment website www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/info/wildlife_human_interaction/docs/ungulates.html also has much information on how to reduce deer conflicts in your yard.

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