Fawn rescued from forest fire near Nevis

The fawn, nicknamed Smokey, is doing well at Northwoods Wildlife Rescue.

Nevis firefighter Emily Whitaker rescued this fawn, later named Smokey, from a fire Saturday. Now at the Northwoods Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Smokey is doing well and will be released back into the wild in about four months.
Contributed / Nevis Fire Department
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Nevis firefighter Emily Whitaker rescued a fawn that was found in the middle of a forest and brush fire Saturday June 1 near Cty. Rd. 13 south of Nevis.

The call came in at 4:30 p.m. with the Eastern Hubbard County Fire District and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also responding to a fire that Whitaker estimated was less than an acre in size.

“A nearby homeowner called us over and told us there was a fawn next to some trees,” Whitaker said. “There were flaming trees and brush burning nearby and the ground was blackened around the deer. She was hunkered down, so I scooped her up and held her in my arms. Normally, it's best to leave fawns where you find them, but this was an unusual circumstance. The fawn was in immediate danger. She already had some singe marks on the back of her neck. Trees overhead were on fire and there were brush fires all around her. With all the commotion of fire trucks, firefighters and DNR machinery, the fear was the mother was scared off and was not going to come back to the area in time.”

Whitaker had dispatch contact Julie Dickie, a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator in northern Minnesota. Her nonprofit organization, Northwoods Wildlife Rescue, captures and releases all manner of wounded creatures.

The Dickies were out of town, transporting other deer to the Cities, so Whitaker and the deer sat on the side of the road for about an hour while they arranged for a volunteer from Northwoods Wildlife Rescue to meet her at their rehab facility.


“A sheriff's department officer who was on the scene drove me there while I held the fawn in the back seat,” she said. “We see a lot of destruction and chaos when we go into fires, so it was a good feeling to have a save.”

Whitaker named the fawn Smokey. “I have a dog and a couple of cats, but this is the first time I held a deer,” she said. “Julie put a gray collar on Smokey, so I can see which one she is on their Facebook page. It looks like she’s doing well.”

Whitaker said the cause of the fire is unknown and that the fire was under control in about two hours.

Rescued just in timeJulie estimates the fawn was only one to two hours old at the time of the rescue. She said, in this case, the fire danger made the rescue timing critical.

“If a fawn doesn’t get colostrum (that they normally get from their mother’s milk) within about the first 24 hours, they’re going to die,” she said. “They need to get those antibodies, so they don’t get stomach infections. The first feeding from mom they get colostrum and I suspect that fawn had never fed off mom yet. So the first thing we did was give it colostrum with Pedialyte and Smokey is doing just fine and eating well.”

Smokey, at far left, was given a gray collar to match her name at the Northwoods Wildlife Rescue where she is doing well.
Contributed / Julie Dickie

Smokey is with a group of eight other rescued fawns who have been brought in.

“Two needed help when their mothers were hit by cars,” Dickie said. “The other fawns were brought in by well-meaning people who thought they were abandoned, when in all likelihood their mother would have returned to care for them.”

The fawns they are caring for will be released into the wild when they are four to four-and-a-half months old.


Dickie said, unless a fawn is in imminent danger, they should be left where they are.

“The mothers often put them somewhere while they feed and come back for them later,” she said.

Dickie said anyone with questions about whether a fawn needs to be rescued is welcome to call her at 218-616-2176.

“That way we can learn about the circumstances and make the best decision for the fawn,” she said. “Anyone who finds an abandoned fawn should not give it anything to eat or drink unless they have talked to a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian who knows wild animals for advice. Their tummies can’t handle whole milk. If we take the fawn in or it's in distress, what it needs is Pedialyte or Gatorade, if it’s dehydrated. If their tummy is filled with water, they won’t be able to take the colostrum and Pedialyte they need.”

Interim fire chief Josh Winter discussed the department's equipment and gear needs with the city council on Nov. 14.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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