- - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It’s the season when solitary baby deer may be seen nestled in the tall grasses of highway medians or the lightly wooded areas of local parks — and Fairfax County Police have issued a warning for would-be “fawn kidnappers.”

“If you see a fawn that appears abandoned, leave it alone,” county police said in a news release.

Deer leave their fawns for extended periods while they forage, meaning that seemingly deserted fawns have not actually been abandoned.

Fairfax County receives frequent calls during fawn season from concerned residents who mistakenly feared them to be orphaned or abandoned, according to Katherine Edwards, the county’s wildlife management specialist.

“While it may be well-intended, human intervention often leads to decreased fawn survival when fawns are removed from the wild,” Ms. Edwards said. “The fawn’s best chance for survival is to remain in the wild.”

Approaching the deer may prevent its mother from returning to it, she said.

While baby deer are unlikely to show aggression toward people, petting them is still risky for anyone unlucky enough to encounter a protective mother deer, said Nelson Lafon, deer project coordinator at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

“Adult female deer do attack and can injure humans who approach their young,” Mr. Lafon said.

In most cases, baby deer do not need to be rescued — those who attempt to handle or capture fawns are putting themselves and the animals at risk, he said.

“There are always inherent dangers to handling a fawn deer that could result in cuts from their sharp hooves or by causing injury to the fawn while it struggles to break free,” he said, adding that fawns captured by humans have a much lower survival rate than those left in the wild.

Captured fawns that are not quickly released back to their mothers can lose their fear of humans and become public safety risks, Mr. Lafon said.

According to data collected by the State Farm insurance company, deer already pose a significant public safety risk to drivers in the region.

Using claims data and state licensed driver counts, State Farm determined that Virginia ranks 13th overall in the country for most potential vehicle-deer collisions. The odds of drivers in Maryland hitting a deer over a 12-month period are 1-in-139.

Regional wildlife agencies employ deer population management programs to reduce the number of white-tailed deer, using hunting as the primary method of population control.

According to the National Park Service, a healthy forest threshold for deer is 15 to 20 per square mile. In the last decade, the number of deer in Rock Creek Park has skyrocketed, reaching 100 deer per square mile.

Since 2013, the National Park Service has decreased the area’s deer population from nearly 80 per square mile to roughly 19 per square mile.

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