He looked around at his friends’ faces, trying to see if any of them knew what to do. They’d been driving through a heavily wooded area where encounters with wildlife are not unusual. But he had never been in a situation like this, and he suspected that neither had the rest of his friends. That said, they knew they couldn’t just leave it be. They had to act, and they had to do it fast.
Drive like a girl
Despite living in a rural community for a long time, Steve Knoop never thought he’d find himself in such a situation. And when they set out that day, neither he nor his friends had any idea of what they were about to face. They were driving together, chatting and having a good time. The road they were on bordered the woods and rarely had any traffic. All of a sudden, he slammed on the brakes.
Bewildered by the sudden halt, Steve’s friends started scolding him for such brash action. But then they saw it: a small, brown lump in the middle of the road. Their first thought was that it was an animal that had been hit by a car. But they didn’t see any other evidence of such an accident. Seeing as there were no other cars around, they decided to get out and investigate. And things only got stranger from there.
As they slowly got closer, they realized what the animal was: a baby deer. Steve became full of sadness at the thought of such a helpless creature getting hit by a car. But something wasn’t right. The fawn’s eyes were open, and there were no visible signs of injury. On top of that, its legs were collapsed in a strange position around its body, almost like it was trying to make itself look smaller. One of the guys had a theory.
One of Steve’s friends posited that perhaps the fawn was trying to hide or camouflage itself by crouching like that. Another guy said it had probably been born just minutes before, which was a real possibility judging by the creature’s size. Either way, the men came to the conclusion that the fawn was unharmed and healthy after they saw it breathe. That said, they couldn’t just leave it there and go on their merry way.
“I think we should leave it alone,” said one of the guys. But the other men were afraid that another driver might not see it and run it over. Steve had an idea. “I’ll just go up there and park my truck sideways and wait until it gets up,” he said. “It should get up soon.” They discussed this idea, wondering how long they’d have to guard the fawn against the dangers of the road. Then they heard rustling sounds behind them.
Jeanne Kay Juhos
The men turned toward the woods and realized there was an adult deer peering at them from behind the foliage. They realized it must be the fawn’s mother. Steve felt relieved by the knowledge that at least the baby deer hadn’t been abandoned, and it had a chance for survival. But first, they had to figure out a way to get it out of the road. Finally, one of the guys made a decision.
We really should get it out of the road,” said his friend Paul. Steve agreed. The other guys were still unsure, but they didn’t have any better ideas. And they all accepted Paul’s decision when he started slowly walking toward the baby deer. Meanwhile, Steve was capturing it all on camera. “It’s not gonna hurt me,” said Paul. “I’m not worried about that.” His main worry was to not scare the fawn.
Paul bent down behind the fawn and carefully moved his hands closer and closer. He was testing the baby’s reaction to his presence. The fawn didn’t seem too spooked, so Paul slowly placed his hands under its hind legs and gently scooped it up. He quickly stood up and walked across the road toward the woods. But then the fawn started moving.
Just as he stepped out of the road and onto the grassy shoulder, the fawn started wiggling its legs, trying to get out of Paul’s hands. “Don’t drop it!” said one of the guys. Luckily, Paul had a strong enough grip that he was able to lower the fawn closer to the ground before letting go. And just like that, the baby deer leaped away and into the woods where his mother was waiting. The guys were in awe.
As soon as he saw the fawn making its way to its mother, Paul turned to look at his friends, his arms in the air and an ecstatic look on his face. “Yeah!” he exclaimed. All the other guys also expressed their delight at the mission accomplished. “That was awesome!” said one of them. Steve knew what a remarkable moment it was, so he decided to post it online. But the reactions were varied.
Steve’s video of the incident has been viewed over five million times. Most people praised Paul’s actions for helping save that baby deer. Others were more critical, though, noting how the fawn’s mother was right there and it probably would have made its way back to her if the guys had just backed away. But are the objections warranted?
According to the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, female deer do tend to leave their fawns on their own while it’s light out, but they always come back. As a person, it’s normal to worry that a baby by itself might be in trouble, but most of the time it’s best to leave them alone. Especially because handling them could have dire consequences.
Wildlife experts generally advise against touching baby deer because the lingering human scent could cause their mothers to reject them. If you must handle them, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends that you “rub an old towel in the grass and wipe the fawn to remove human scent.” Paul didn’t have time to clean off the fawn before it ran off -- but that doesn’t mean what he did was wrong.
The Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would definitely approve of what Paul did that day. “If the fawn is found in a dangerous place... [it] may be picked up and immediately moved several feet away from the danger," they write on their website. We couldn’t agree more!