PSU Deer Study

Like Christmas, tax season, and my birthday, it comes every year. The annual event that I am referring to is fawning season, of course. This is a deer blog.

And there is nothing cuter than a fawn. Those spots can melt the coldest of hearts. But we don’t want you to call him George. We have shared this PSA numerous times on this blog. Wildlife management agencies blast it from social media channels. And still it happens.

Fawns are kidnapped every year and the ending is rarely a happy one. No one takes better care of a fawn than its mom. NO ONE. However, some people think they know better. Most kidnapped fawns die.

The ones that don’t are doomed.

Those human-reared fawns are now imprinted on, and habituated to, people. As they get older and puberty hits, they become dangerous and unpredictable. Ask the woman who was attacked by a collar wearing buck on her way to feed her chickens.

Getting gored or stomped is painful and potentially life threatening. Antlers and hooves are the dangers you can see. Wild animals carry a smorgasbord of bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Many of which can infect people! These nasties usually don’t make a deer sick but will drop you like a ton of bricks. Q Fever caused by Coxiella burnetti causes abortion and is found in high concentrations when an infected animal gives birth. There is also salmonellosis, campylobacterosis, listeriosis, yersiniosis, cryptosporidiosis – should I go on?

But the disease thing is a 2-way street. We can expose deer to pathogens. Then we open the door and let them walk away. Like a toddler with a runny nose loose at daycare, George licks the other deer kids unleashing whatever plague he’s infected with.


This puts wildlife management agencies in a bad spot. Because they don’t know the source, the circumstance, or the exposure of one of these animals, the only solution is to euthanize it and have it tested for diseases of concern, such as chronic wasting disease.

Nobody wins. The deer dies. The people who raised it are confused, angry, and sad. And the wildlife agency is tasked with being the bad guy. This is a position NO ONE wants to be in.

We all know that Mother Nature is unwavering and pragmatic. Half of all fawns born in Pennsylvania are going to die. We know this but it doesn’t make it any easier especially when we see it. But it’s way worse when YOU are the cause of the death. The great, big world may be hard and scary but at least they have a chance. If you pick up a fawn and bring it home, it has NO chance.

Fawns are cute but get a dog. You can hug him and pet him and squeeze him and call him George.

-Jeannine Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist
PA Game Commission

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