Spring brings out fawns, bears and beavers; DNR urges people to leave them alone
With the arrival of spring when wildlife is active, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging people to leave fawns and other wildlife alone.
Jeff Lightfoot, DNR Northeast Region wildlife manager, offers these tips for dealing with nuisance wildlife:
A doe's method of rearing offspring is different from a human's, especially for the first few weeks. Within hours of birth, the fawn is led to a secluded spot and the doe lets it nurse.
With a full stomach, the fawn is content to lie down and rest. If the doe has twins, it will hide the second fawn up to 200 feet away. Then the doe leaves to feed and rest herself, out of sight but within earshot. In four or five hours, she will return to feed her young and take them to a new hiding place. They follow this pattern for two to three weeks, and only then, when the fawns are strong enough to outrun predators, do the young travel much with their mother.
Deer have evolved a number of special adaptations that make this approach to fawn rearing successful. Fawns have almost no odor, so predators cannot smell them. Their white spotted coats provide excellent camouflage when they are lying on the forest floor. For the first week of life, frightened fawns instinctively freeze, making full use of their protective coloration.
Older fawns remain motionless until they think they have been discovered, and then jump and bound away. A deer's primary protection from predators is its great speed. Newborn fawns are not fast enough to outdistance predators, so they must depend on their ability to hide for protection.
Although these adaptations work well against predators, they don't work very well with people. For the first few weeks, a fawn's curiosity may entice it to approach a person who comes upon on it.
What's the right way to handle an encounter with a fawn? Never try to catch it. If it's hiding, admire it for a moment and then quietly walk away. Enjoy the memory, but don't describe the location to others. If the fawn tries to follow, gently push on its shoulders until it lies down, and then walk away. That's what its mother does when she doesn't want the fawn to follow.
Leaving fawns alone gives them the best chance for survival.
Black bear sows are raising young and are hungry. Hungry bears are not averse to taking advantage of food found in bird feeders, garbage containers and barbecues. If a bear becomes a problem at a home, the first approach should be to remove the source of food such as bird feeders and put garbage inside secure garages.
People who see a bear should stay indoors. Bears are generally afraid of humans, but can be unpredictable. Landowners who are troubled by nuisance bears should remove the attractant. If the bear remains in the area for more than a day or two, contact the local area wildlife office for additional suggestions.
Landowners have the authority to remove from their property beavers that are causing damage. With a permit from a conservation officer, beaver trappers can also remove nuisance beavers outside of the beaver season. Before contacting the local conservation officer, consider wrapping shoreline trees in chicken wire fence. The beaver will not chew through the fence, thus preserving the tree.
If a beaver dam structure affects property, DNR authorization is required to remove it. A device called a Clemson Leveler could be installed to maintain water flow through the dam. A lake association or watershed district should work with the DNR to ensure usefulness and proper installation.
"Wildlife is wonderful to observe, but these animals also should be respected," Lightfoot said. "Stay safe, have fun and enjoy the outdoors."