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Nature Watch

MOST SPECIES of deer give birth during the month of June, and by now there are thousands of fallow fawns, red and sika calves and roe kids dotted about the countryside, only a few days old. Mothers make a habit of leaving their offspring in what they consider safe places while they themselves go off to graze; thus it is common to see a fawn curled round in a ball and lying by itself in the undergrowth.

Many people, finding Bambi apparently abandoned, make the mistake of stroking the creature, or - worse still - picking it up. Any such handling may seriously damage its chances of survival, for when the mother returns, she may be so put off by the smell of humans that she rejects her baby. The moral is, therefore: leave well alone.

One form of protection from predators is that newborn deer have practically no scent. Another defence is immobility: by lying still in deep grass or bracken, a fawn can escape detection by foxes or (in the Scottish Highlands) eagles. Yet in farmland the same habit can be lethal, especially for roe deer, which tend to leave their kids in silage crops where all too often they are cut to pieces by forage harvesters.