SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is reminding hikers who come across a deer fawn or an elk calf to simply leave it alone.
"Don't approach it," Justin Shannon, the DWR’s big game coordinator, said in a statement. "Watch it or take a photo of it from a distance, but don't approach it. In almost every case, the fawn has not been abandoned by its mother."
Shannon said newborn big game animals fall into two categories: followers and hiders.
Followers include bison calves and bighorn sheep lambs, which follow their mothers shortly after they're born. Hiders, such as mule deer fawns and elk calves, do the opposite: They hide, alone, for most of the day.
A doe deer will reunite with its fawn for a short time during the day to nurse it and care for it. Then, to draw attention away from where the fawn is hiding, the mother will leave. The doe will spend the rest of the day feeding and resting.
BYU professor Brock McMillan has researched deer fawns in Utah for years and said hiding its fawn is the best way for the doe to protect it from predators. Fawns are born with a creamy brown coat that's covered with white spots. The camouflaged coat allows the fawn to blend in with its surroundings.
"Also, fawns don't give off much scent," McMillan said in a statement, "so it's difficult for predators to smell them. Hiding the fawn is the best way to keep the animal safe."
After two or three weeks, the fawn grows strong enough to start accompanying its mother.