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While suffering injuries on its legs and eyelid, this mule deer did not require sutures. Submitted photo/Heather Patrice Brown
Heather Patrice Brown, Development Coordinator, California Wildlife Center
3:53 pm PDT August 5, 2020

On July 21, California Wildlife Center received a mule deer fawn from Santa Clarita. It was lethargic and had wounds on its legs and eyelid. Staff immediately administered pain medications and antibiotics and treated his wounds topically.

Luckily his abrasions were superficial and did not require sutures. Technicians also gave the patient subcutaneous fluids to combat his dehydration. At this stage, the fawn's prognosis was guarded and his ability to recover was concerning for staff.

Deer are prone to a condition called capture myopathy, which is caused by stress when they are handled or trapped by people or predators. Extreme overexertion and strain of the nervous system can lead to muscular breakdown. Once capture myopathy sets in, animals may become unable to stand with varying degrees of paralysis (usually in their hind limbs).

Death may also result because of circulatory disturbances, consequences of ruptured muscles, or electrolyte imbalance, which can affect the heart and kidneys. As there is no cure for this condition, prevention is the key.

Once it occurs, rehabilitators can only provide supportive care in hopes that there hasn’t been severe muscle damage.

The day following his arrival, the fawn still had low energy and hadn't eaten anything. Staff tried hand-feeding the deer wild grape leaves, a snack they usually enjoy, but without success. Fortunately, a day later, his appetite and energy improved thanks to effective medications and rehydration.

He was soon standing and would try to headbutt staff when they approached. It is reassuring for us to see aggression in wild patients because it means they have retained a healthy fear of humans.

Four days after his arrival, the fawn was introduced to the other five deer in care. He had made a quick recovery and his prognosis is now listed as good.

He will be released with the other fawns in October.

If you see a deer or fawn stuck in an enclosed space, do not chase the animal. It is best to open the gate and have everyone vacate the area so that the animal can find the opening on its own, leaving when it’s ready and feels safe.

If it’s a small fawn and remains in the enclosed area overnight or seems weak and inactive, it may need medical assistance. Do not try to rescue a deer yourself. Contact California Wildlife Center at (310) 458-9453 or your local animal control agency.

You can support the six orphaned fawns in CWC’s care and even sponsor a fawn by going to cawildlife.org.


California Wildlife Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides medical and rehabilitative care to more than 4,300 sick, injured, and orphaned native California animals every year. To donate, click here.