Ask Jack: Orphaned Deer & Best Place for an “Exotic” Vacation

By Beacon Staff

Having been fortunate to have traveled around the world, I’ve learned that wildlife is being challenged by burgeoning civilization and the accompanying loss of habitat. Animals are now closer to human habitations. Since the native forests are being fragmented, people are seeing wildlife in their backyards. What to do?

Well, it seems like the answers differ from place to place. For example, handling the deer population in Ohio can be very different from that in Montana. Each area is unique, and the animals are subject to very different circumstances. We all owe a lot to biologists and researchers (both here and abroad) who have dedicated their lives to studying wildlife so that we can manage them successfully!

I’m writing you from my home in Bigfork, where sadly after hunting season started I have twin orphan fawns on my property, they are very small maybe 4 – 4 1/2 months old. I know we are not to interfere with wildlife but I also know their chance of survival is small … is there anything I can do to help them survive the winter? Yesterday they tried to approach another doe and of course she ran them off. It is really sad to watch them, like I said they are really small and it wasn’t that long ago I saw them in the yard and they were still nursing. Any advice you could give me would be appreciated. – Sherri

As you may know, young fawns rely on adult leadership to find food sources and cover, and to provide protection – so, orphans really have the deck stacked against them. But, the little ones that are visiting you are well on their way to adulthood. At their age, they definitely know what to dine on over the winter – they prefer needles from the Douglas Fir tree. They also feed on a variety of shrubs. So, from the standpoint of food, these growing fawns should be fine.

Resist the urge to feed the deer – even if you think they aren’t getting proper nutrition on their own. Feeding them will attract others, and create an “artificial” concentration of animals. Not only will these deer begin to depend on your food source, but predators will also be attracted to the booming population in your backyard! Another problem with feeding deer during the winter is that there will be leftover grain on the ground. With the spring thaw, this grain will ferment and – you guessed it – attract bears!

In short, as with most any young animal (unless it is injured), just let nature take its course and things should work out fine. If you find an injured animal – or a young helpless one that is definitely orphaned, call the state wildlife department or a professional wildlife rehabilitator (in the meantime, try not to handle them, because your scent will be easily transferred). These animals are extremely delicate but the pros know how to nurse them back to health.

You’ve been all over the world. If I can only go on one “exotic” vacation, what would you recommend? -Joel

That’s a tough one, because every place – the South Pole, the North Pole, the Amazon – is unique. If you’re an animal-lover like I am, then Africa would definitely be my recommendation. The animals are amazing and really easy to spot – especially with knowledgeable guides and trackers. But, the next question is … what part of Africa? We’ve had especially good wildlife sightings in Botswana. Visit the part of the country known as the Okavango Delta. This area always seems to be teeming with animal life, and the wildlife is relatively easy to photograph. We’ve even seen the endangered wild dogs there.

So, Botswana might be your choice – especially due to the diversity of animal species. But – for sheer amazement, try to visit Rwanda and spend time with the endangered mountain gorillas. There’s not an animal experience like it in the world and you’ll treasure the memories forever!

If, for some reason, Botswana or Rwanda doesn’t work out for you … try either Kenya or Tanzania. Both countries have fantastic wildlife coupled with really interesting local, nomadic cultures. Regardless of your choice, you’ll have a vacation … I mean, an “adventure” of a lifetime!

Remember to send your questions to [email protected]!