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An Ogemaw County Year : June Fawns

Updated: Jun 25

This post is part of a project in the works; "An Ogemaw County Year". The blog and eventually the book will encompass nature noticing, research and facts over the course of a year with a watercolor painting for each entry. Originals and prints will be available via the website as they are completed and prepped and the book will be available upon completion.


 

As I wandered along a trail in Irons park in West Branch I glanced over at the edge of the slope down to the creek.  The grass along the water is not mowed in this part of the park and I spotted movement in a patch of tall June grass. There, nestled among the bright orange fireweed and lush greenery, I saw a tiny fawn, its brown coat speckled with white spots. The fawn was lying perfectly still, its large, dark eyes blinking slowly. I paused to admire this unexpected visitor, feeling a mix of awe and wonder at nature's quiet surprises.


Resisting the urge to move closer, I reminded myself that the best thing I can do is leave the fawn undisturbed. After a few more moments of quiet admiration, I continued down the trail, carrying with me the image of the delicate creature hidden among verdant green grass. The park in the middle of town seems even more alive and magical after this encounter, a gentle reminder of the hidden wonders that nature holds.


Every June, you might notice some small, seemingly innocuous packages left in the most interesting places. Look closely, and you’ll find small brown beings with white spots and wobbly legs nestled in flowerbeds, meadows, along trails, and sometimes even by the roadside. These are white-tailed deer fawns, carefully hidden by their mothers. Like all mammals, these fawns rely on their mother's milk for the first few months of their lives.


While the mother deer, or doe, needs to graze and forage to stay healthy, you'll often see her at dawn and dusk in the fields. However, you won't often spot the newborn fawns during this time. This is because young fawns aren't quick enough to evade predators, and their best defense is camouflage. The doe tucks them into tall grass, brush, or even the occasional mulched flowerbed to keep them hidden. The fawns remain very still until their mother returns, although sometimes they might totter around on their long, spindly legs, bleating for their mom. The mother, usually nearby, will respond with a bleat to guide her fawn back to safety.


Interestingly, does often leave their fawns close to human habitation. This might seem counterintuitive, but it’s a clever tactic. Predators like coyotes, foxes, and eagles tend to avoid areas near roadways, houses, or busy hiking trails. Despite this strategy, every year, well-meaning humans come across these fawns and feel compelled to rescue them. Unfortunately, this act of kindness often does more harm than good. Many of these fawns end up in rehabilitation centers or die because they were removed from their natural habitat and separated from their mothers by people who didn't realize the harm they were causing.


Throughout their first year, fawns go through significant changes. By late summer, they start to nibble on vegetation, though they continue to nurse from their mothers. As fall approaches, they begin to lose their spots and grow a thicker coat to prepare for winter. During this time, the fawns also learn to forage more independently and rely less on nursing. Their diet shifts from primarily milk to a mix of grasses, leaves, and other vegetation.


As fall gives way to winter, the doe continues to care for her fawn, teaching it how to find food and avoid danger. As the temperatures drop, the fawn's thicker coat helps it stay warm during the cold winter months. The bond between the doe and her fawn remains strong, with the doe providing guidance and protection throughout the season.  By the time the fawn reaches one year old, it has grown significantly and learned crucial survival skills. It's still not fully independent as it may still travel with the doe but it can easily survive alone. The knowledge and experience gained during this first year are vital for its continued growth and survival in the wild.


If you come across a fawn this June, resist the urge to intervene. Remember, the best thing you can do is to leave it be. Its mother is likely nearby and knows exactly what she’s doing.


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