Salty Horse Fawn Rescue says “Leave Fawns Alone!”

Lisa Gerdon-Dillworth bottle feeds a small fawn at her rescue.

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One of the fawns at Salty Horse Fawn Rescue stares directly at the camera after finishing eating.
Lisa Gerdon-Dillworth bottle feeds a small fawn at her rescue.
Fawns feed out of a bottle feeder to limit human interaction while Lisa Gerdon-Dillworth, owner of Salty Horse Fawn Rescue, bottle feeds a small fawn in the background.

Lisa Gerdon-Dillworth started Salty Horse Fawn Rescue by accident. This past spring, someone she knew found a dehydrated fawn and brought it to her husband, Dr. Doug Dillworth, a veterinarian.  However, North Carolina law prohibits veterinarians from treating wild animals.  Gerdon-Dillworth contacted other fawn rescues but they were either full or did not return her call.  Concerned about her husband’s license and knowing that it is illegal for private citizens to keep fawns, Gerdon-Dillworth applied for a rescue and rehabilitation permit.  It all happened rather quickly after that. The game warden came out to inspect them and they were approved in June.

Within three months, Gerdon-Dillworth had received about 60 calls about fawns.  The biggest thing Gerdon-Dillworth wants people to know is, “Leave them alone.  Fawns don’t run until they are about 2 weeks old.”  If they don’t move, it does not mean that they are injured.  Usually, their mother will leave the fawn while she goes to forage.  But it is an old wise tale that the doe will not take back the fawn if it smells like people.  Mom will successfully reunite with the fawn up to four days after they are moved if they are placed within approximately 500 feet of where she left it.  “She just wants her baby back.  Put it back!” Gerdon-Dillworth says.

There are some reasons to contact Gerdon-Dillworth to see if the found fawn should receive medical attention.  If the fawn is not curled up but is laid out, is covered in ants, or is in obvious distress or unhealthy, then Gerdon-Dillworth can help.  If the fawn is approved to be brought to Salty Horse Fawn Rescue, then it is the finder’s responsibility to transport it to the rescue.  Since both Gerdon-Dillworth and Dr. Dillworth work full-time jobs and they are the only approved Fawn Rescue in Mecklenburg and Union Counties, they aren’t able to pick fawns up for transport.  She is looking for volunteers to help transport the fawns.  If you are interested in volunteering, please contact them through their FaceBook page: Salty Horse Ranch Fawn Rehabilitation.

So far, six fawns have been brought to Salty Horse Fawn Rescue and three have survived.  A 50 percent survival is a pretty common statistic, Gerdon-Dillworth says.  Many fawns suffer from Capture Myopathy.  Gerdon-Dillworth explains, “When deer get chased, especially young fawns, they get a rush of adrenaline.  They have a limited ability to come back down since they can’t vasodilate.”

Adrenaline deteriorates muscles, including the heart, and the fawn can’t recover.

“If it runs, and you chase it, you are killing it,” Gerdon-Dillworth said.

This is why it is so important to not chase fawns that are not eligible to come to the Rescue.  However, once an injured fawn is captured, it is important to get it to the Rescue as soon as possible.  Twelve hours can be the difference between life and death and is one of the reasons that survival rates are so low.  Capture Myopathy extends into the rehab environment too since fawns are not used to human interaction.  “You can’t leave them alone but you can’t handle them,” explains Gerdon-Dillworth.  “The saddest part about getting into this is watching them die.”

Luckily, another rescue had warned Gerdon-Dillworth about the survival rate so she was better prepared when it did happen.  And she constantly reminds herself of the ones that she does save.  She also feels better that the ones that do need to be euthanized, can be done so humanely.

Salty Horse Fawn Rescue is a N.C. approved primary and secondary facility.  This means that they are able to take in fawns and release them back to the wild.  The goal is to get them well enough to be outside in the approved deer pens as soon as possible.  There is no playing with the fawns or petting them.  They have to be kept as wild as possible.  Luckily, the Rescue is located near Cane Creek so the released deer have somewhere safer to go.

Salty Horse Fawn Rescue is a non-profit 501c3.  They do ask for donations when a fawn is dropped off since everything is an out of pocket expense for Gerdon-Dillworth.  The money is a large reason there aren’t more fawn rescues.  The second question on the application asks if the new rescue will able to afford vet care.  Since the state does not offer any financial assistance to rescues, Salty Horse Fawn Rescue will be doing fundraising in the future and is looking to raise about $7,500 to cover costs for next year including adding new pens for deer at different stages of recovery and growth.  North Carolina has very specific rules concerning the rescues, including that all deer must be released by December 1st.  However, fawns are being born later in the season now so it won’t always be possible to meet this deadline since fawns need to be at least four months old before being released.  NC also requires rescues to reapply for their license annually and will not allow fawn rescues to help adult deer.  These are all things that Gerdon-Dillworth will be lobbying to change in the future.

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