A new home for a 'kidnapped' fawn

‘Kidnapped’ fawn finds home at Keepers of the Wild

The yet nameless fawn has been relocated to the Keepers of the Wild.

Linda Khachatoorian/For the Miner

The yet nameless fawn has been relocated to the Keepers of the Wild.


Fred (second from right) and three of the yearlings rescued last year. (Linda Khachatoorian/For the Miner)


The yet unnamed fawn who was “kidnapped” last week. (Linda Khachatoorian/For the Miner)

Keepers of the Wild has received the Mule Deer Fawn recently confiscated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The fawn appears to be in good condition at this time: alert, nursing well and good hair coat. The fawn was “kidnapped” from its mother and taken to a local bar to be shown-off. Fortunately, the fawn had the opportunity to receive the “first milk” (colostrum) which provides essential nutrients and antibodies to newborn animals. When deer fawns are bottle-fed by humans they cannot be returned to the wild. Experienced staff members are taking turns feeding the fawn every three to four hours.

Many people do not understand that native wildlife belongs to the citizens of the United States. In the early 1900s the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation became the basis for the management of our native species. The AZGFD is responsible for animals living in Arizona. If a person makes the decision to “take” a baby wild animal away from its mother, they are also taking that animal from the citizens of Arizona.

When wildlife becomes unable to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild, the AZGFD often contacts Keepers of the Wild asking us to accept the responsibility of caring for these special animals for the rest of their lives. All of these animals, including some that have been truly orphaned, are on “life-long loan” and belong to the people of Arizona.

Keepers of the Wild educates park visitors – national and international – about our native species; their conservation issues, natural habitats, living with wildlife, their diets, behavior and unique adaptations. “We are pleased to accept the responsibility of caring for this young orphan,” said Jonathan Kraft, Founder and Executive Director of Keepers. “For many years the Arizona Game and Fish Department has trusted us to care for our native species animals. We just wish that people would leave the baby animals where they belong! If you truly care – please leave them there.”

Mule deer does will often seek seclusion from other deer just before giving birth. They will leave their fawns for brief periods of time, or watch them from a short distance away. Fawns are born without “scent” to help protect them from predators. The seclusion protects the fawns from contracting disease and allows them the time to grow without expending energy and precious nutrients which contribute to their early growth and development.

“The first one to two months of life are critical for an orphaned fawn,” Keepers of the Wild Director Tina Matejek said. “We will keep this little one in seclusion just as its mother would. Depending on how the fawn develops, it may not meet our other deer until early October.”

Some years the mule deer fawn survival rate may be as high as 50 percent. Weather factors including drought, intense cold or heat may contribute to the availability of vegetation for the deer to browse. Malnutrition may affect pregnant does resulting in lower birth weights when fawns are delivered. These fawns may be more susceptible to disease and predation by cougars, coyotes, bobcats and black bears. A 2016 published study of the survival of desert mule deer fawns in Central Arizona stated that the probability of fawn survival is lowest in the first two weeks of life.

Last year Keepers of the Wild received five orphaned fawns from the AZGFD. One of those fawns, Cinco, had also been the victim of being “kidnapped” from his mother. The five fawns are now yearlings and live in our Serengeti habitat with their “Uncle” Fred. Fred was orphaned in 2009 and was brought to Keepers of the Wild by AZGFD. He takes great pride in teaching and caring for “his” mule deer herd.

Just as they have cared for Fred for the past eight years, they will use their experience and knowledge to provide the best home for this little one. Keepers of the Wild delivers the best standard of care and help implement the humane treatment of all animals. The preservation and protection of wildlife and the environment is paramount in our goals.

A second mule deer fawn was delivered to Keepers of the Wild on Sunday. Mike Demlong, AZGFD Wildlife Education Program Manager, brought the fawn personally. He stated the fawn had been kept in someone’s backyard as a “pet.” When a neighbor saw the story about the fawn that was taken into the local bar near Salome, they realized that it was illegal to have a fawn. They contacted the AZGFD who took the second fawn into custody.

The second fawn is approximately three weeks old. The two fawns were introduced to each other and will keep one another company while they grow up. Demlong had the opportunity to check on the five yearling deer that were brought to Keepers of the Wild last year. He was pleased to see how well they were all doing. 

Keepers of the Wild is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of abused, neglected, abandoned and retired captive wildlife. Keepers of the Wild provides a permanent home and true sanctuary to all the animals it rescues.