A warning has been issued against removing baby deer from the wild after “incorrectly assuming they’ve been abandoned”.
The Scottish SPCA has advised that removing fawns from the wild is “effectively a death sentence” for them as well as their mothers.
Female deer will leave their young from an early age in long grass or under bushes to protect them from predators while they forage for food.
As they are a prey animal, the fawn’s instinct is to lie as still as possible so as not to attract predators, leading to members of the public mistakenly thinking they are sick, injured or abandoned.
The warning comes after a baby deer died at the charity’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre last month.
A member of the public had taken the fawn home for a few days and tried to feed it after its mother died on a road.
It was then brought to the centre, where it died due to aspiration pneumonia – it had been fed unsuitable milk and food, and the milk entered its lungs.
“We are still seeing a number of fawns which have arrived at the centre where they have been removed from the wild for no reason,” assistant manager of the centre, April Dodds said.
“Removing fawns from their natural habitat can only do harm if they are an otherwise healthy animal with a mother.
“The public may think this is not a serious issue as the animals can be cared for by the Scottish SPCA but fawns are possibly the most complex and challenging animal we deal with at the National Wildlife Rescue Centre.
“In many cases removing that young animal from the wild is effectively a death sentence.”
“These are wild animals, not domesticated pets who are used to human interaction, so trying to pet or comfort them only causes more stress,” Ms Dodds added.
She continued: “Just this week, a member of the public picked up a healthy fawn and took them home.
“When we asked them to reveal their location they refused and claimed that, as they had read advice online, they knew how to look after the animal.
“We know the fawn was outside with the family dog and the close proximity of an animal like a dog, which a deer would perceive as a predator, would undoubtedly cause yet more stress to the animal.”
The Scottish SPCA recommends monitoring an “abandoned” fawn from a distance for a few hours and contacting the charity’s helpline if no mother returns to feed the baby.
It also recommends calling if a fawn is visibly injured, in immediate danger, or their mother is dead nearby.
The Scottish SPCA can be called at 03000 999 999 for advice and guidance regarding the protection and safety of vulnerable animals.