Originally Published: August 5, 2013 6:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT - The Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary in Prescott has an adorable new resident hopping around and testing its wobbly legs.Fewer than 2 weeks old, it's a female mule deer that someone apparently found near Willcox.It still has its spots but that fur color could start disappearing within a few weeks, zoo director Pam McLaren said. The spots help camouflage fawns from predators, and fawns lose them once they can keep up with the herd.Because it's so susceptible to disease right now, it's living inside a room of the educational animals building, but visitors can see it through a large window."This is the first time we've ever had one that young visible to the public," McLaren said. It weighs only about 6 pounds and stands only 14 inches high - not including its big mule-sized ears.A lucky auction winner at the sanctuary's Oct. 6 "Taste of the Wild" fundraiser will get to name the deer.A man brought the fawn to a Tucson health care facility about a week ago and said a coyote killed its mother. The facility called the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which brought the fawn to Prescott this week. It's so young it won't be able to go back to the wild.People should never pick up baby animals because nearly every time, the mother is nearby watching, McLaren explained. It's just staying away so she doesn't tip off predators."Always call before you pick it up," she said, referring to the sanctuary or Game and Fish.The sanctuary often receives calls from people saying a fawn or other baby animal has been without its mother all day, but it's likely the person just can't see the mother, McLaren said."They can sense us long before we see them," she explained.It's lucky that the Prescott sanctuary had room because more often than not, there's no appropriate place that can provide round-the-clock care and then a home for about 15 years for a mule deer.So when people pick up baby animals they often end up getting euthanized, McLaren said."The intentions are good, but the results are most often a death sentence," agreed Erin Butler, game specialist with the Game and Fish Kingman office. "The first instinct is to lend a helping hand, but people have to fight that urge."Luckily the sanctuary happens to have room right now because Bearizona near Williams is adopting two of the sanctuary's five adult mule deer, she said. Zookeepers have kept busy feeding the fawn a special milk-like liquid every 1-2 hours and watching it closely. It has to be tested regularly for chronic wasting disease and other health issues. "The keepers have to work 'round the clock to care for it," McLaren said.The Arizona Game and Fish Department warns people that they also can get a fine for removing wildlife from its habitat.Avian parents will continue to care for a hatchling that has fallen from a nest. However, if the bird is in immediate danger, it is okay to place them back in the nest or in a nearby tree. Contrary to popular belief, human scent will not concern the parents."It's nice to have people so concerned about the welfare of wildlife," Butler said. "We just ask that people do what is best for the animals, and the best thing is to leave them alone.There are other methods to help: watch your pets and your vehicle speed. Pet dogs and cats negatively impact wildlife, especially in the spring when young are born and vulnerable, while vehicles remain the top killer of wildlife in the nation."Young animals have plenty to worry about in the wild," Butler said. "Toss in domestic animals and the problem is compounded. Some of the young received at the office are the result of an attack by a pet."