How to Raise Infant Deer

Raising an infant deer requires a lot of work.
Raising an infant deer requires a lot of work. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

An infant deer that has been abandoned by its mother may find it difficult to survive on its own. Although raising an abandoned baby deer is not easy, saving the baby is possible by following certain instructions. Individual state laws will govern whether or not you can house a baby deer, so you should contact a wildlife rehabilitation specialist as soon as possible for help. However, if you find yourself with a baby deer in your care, give it the proper food and attention it needs to grow strong enough to survive on its own. Never allow yourself to forget that it is a wild animal.

Things You'll Need

  • Bottle with nipple
  • Milk-replacement product
  • Damp towel
  • Shelter
  • 10-foot high fence
  • Bed with bedding
  • Grass and hay

Feed an infant deer using a baby bottle with a nipple and a milk-replacement product. Some veterinarians and pet stores sell milk formula just for fawns. The deer may take some time to eat from the nipple, but once it gets used to the idea there should be no problem. Feed every 2 to 3 hours during the day during the first weeks of the deer's life. Feeding frequency can be tapered off over several weeks until the fawn is about 12 weeks old. Since you don't want the baby deer to imprint on humans, try to limit other contact with the deer.

You may need to help the deer urinate and defecate, if the fawn is unable to do this on its own. Use a damp towel to simulate a mother deer licking the fawn, gently rubbing its lower regions until the fawn relieves itself.

Prepare a safe, warm outdoor place for the infant deer to live and sleep. At first, this may be a simple wooden box with warm, soft bedding. Eventually, you will need to provide more room as the deer grows. An outdoor pen with a tall fence (10-foot high fencing is preferable) should be sufficient. Do not socialize with the deer; if it becomes too accustomed to humans, it will have a more difficult time surviving in the wild.

Provide grass and hay for the deer in its shelter as it grows older and is weaned from milk formula. After about 12 weeks, the deer should be eating mostly solid food instead of milk. It is a good idea to have grass and hay always available, so the deer can get used to eating it over time.

Free the young deer once it is completely weaned. Release the deer in an environment similar to the one you found it in, but not too close to your home. This will give the deer the best chance of a normal life in the wild.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you find an abandoned baby deer, you should contact a wildlife rehabilitation expert for help as soon as possible. Look for city or county wildlife resources in your phone book.
  • Raising a baby deer requires a permit in many locations. Call wildlife officials to check on your local and state laws.
  • An infant deer's best chance of survival is with its mother. If you aren't completely sure that the baby has been orphaned, leave it where you found it.

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