The bottle-raised fawn: a true story!

The birth of baby elks takes place from mid-May until end of June, and the newborns usually stay with their mothers all summer long. During this period, they drink mother’s milk. Elk fawns are usually weaned from their mother around the age of 12 weeks. However, for various reasons, the mother sometimes can’t breastfeed her newborn, so the producer has to intervene. Here is the story of Chatouille’s life.

Chatouille was born in May 2000, together with her twin sister. Yes, that is right. Elks sometimes have twins. Although this phenomena is very rare, it happens. We can’t be sure about the global statistics for elks in Canada, but on our farm, on 375 birth, we had twins 4 times. In other words, the probability for a female elk to give birth to twins is of about 1%.

When Chatouille was born, we noticed that there were two fawns with the same mother. We closely monitored this phenomena. We saw that the mother was hiding her babies at two different places, far apart from each other. This strategy is to protect them from a predator: if one fawn gets attacked, the other one can still be safe. When the female tried breastfeeding, there was not enough milk for her second daughter. As another female was passing by, the hungry baby tried to suck milk out of her. But this female, who was actually giving birth at the same time, gave her a huge kick with her hoof.

We hurriedly brought the fawn in a safe place, we gave her a baby formula milk that is specially conceived for calves. As this milk is not exactly as nourishing as the elk milk, we also added an egg yolk, some pablum, and vitamins in each bottle. It took us a lot of patience to make her drink from the bottle’s teat. The first days, she drank each 2 hours, day and night.  Then, we fed her each 3 hours, and finally only twice a day.

This was a big investment of time. Each of our kids helped after school when it was possible. The fawn survived. We took great care of her. At the end of the summer, she gradually started eating oats, grains and grass, just like an adult elk. In September, before the weaning, she used to drink 2 liters of milk in less than 5 minutes, 3 times a day.

When we sent her back in the fence with the other weaned fawns, she adapted well, but she was always more docile than her friends. Today, Chatouille lives on another farm. Now, we have Pitoune: just like Chatouille, she was bottle-raised. Her mother abandoned her after birth in summer 2012. Pitoune is always the first to come to us when we bring her food. She is tamed and she is not at all scared of us! You can even touch her during your a guided tour!


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