Deer poaching orphans fawns

WHITE CITY — Wildlife investigators are looking for a poacher whose Friday killing of a black-tailed doe near Agate Lake is destined to tug harder than usual on the heartstrings of animal lovers.

The doe was concealed in brush along the Agate Lake access road, and an Oregon State Police trooper investigating the crime saw two spotted fawns that are believed to be the doe's June offspring.

With rehabilitation centers no longer taking orphaned fawns, OSP Senior Trooper Jeff Thompson says he had no options for helping the young deer.

"I had to leave them in the woods," Thompson says.

"Basically, they didn't just kill the doe," he says. "They killed the two fawns, too."

That's the stark, and often cruel, reality of how there are no real good human solutions to orphaned wildlife such as blacktails in the woods, says Mark Vargas, Rogue District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"Usually, when a doe dies, the fawns die, too," Vargas says. "Nature is cruel."

Attempting to capture fawns that are about a month old is difficult at best, Vargas says.

"Those fawns, if they're more than a week old, run around like jack-rabbits," Vargas says.

If captured, rehab centers end up simply prolonging, but not changing, the animals' fate, Vargas says.

ODFW biologists used to take fawns to the Wildlife Images Rehabilitation Center in Merlin. But in recent years, diseases such as the adenovirus have moved quickly through the fawns, whose close confinement in even large pens helps spread infections.

Even deer that have survived to grow large enough for release have tested positive as adenovirus carriers, rendering them ineligible for release by ODFW biologists concerned about spreading the disease.

That left the rehabbing effort "kind of pointless," says David Siddon, Wildlife Images' executive director. "You want to do all you can for the little guys, but all your efforts don't seem to be doing any good," Siddon says. "It's a tough problem."

Even those that side-step diseases aren't out of the woods once they are returned to the forest, Vargas says.

While raised at rehab facilities, the formerly bottle-fed animals tend to have enough positive interactions with humans that it becomes their death sentence, Vargas says.

Local tracking of rehabbed fawns released into the wild with radio-transmitting collars in the past have shown that these animals end up dying anyway, Vargas says.

"We've had some that have lived six weeks or eight weeks, but a lot of them die within a week," Vargas says. "They tend to hang around people, where they're killed by predators, dogs or get hit by cars."

Leaving those orphaned fawns in the woods Friday night gave them their only real shot at survival, Vargas says.

"Their best chance is, hopefully, that another doe will adopt them," he says.

The case began shortly before dusk Friday when a Jackson County parks employee discovered the freshly killed doe about 40 yards inside the Agate Lake County Park gate, Thompson says.

The doe, which was not skinned or gutted, was wrapped in a tarp and stashed under brush, apparently hidden by the poachers so they could return and collect the animal, Thompson says.

The employee closed the gate and then saw what Thompson suspects was the poacher or poachers returning in a vehicle described as a van, Thompson says.

Thompson declined to say how the deer was killed.

Since the deer was not gutted, the meat was considered rotten and the animal had to be disposed of, Thompson says.

Anyone with information about the case is urged to telephone Thompson at 541-776-6236, ext. 260.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

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