With the temperature pushing 110 at noon last Thursday, tourists in the Grand Canyon showed up on the doorstep of the Phantom Ranch Ranger Station holding a fawn wrapped up in a T-shirt.
The couple was near a creek about a quarter mile from the ranger station when the baby deer walked up to them, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. Not seeing its mother, they believed the animal was in need of help, so they scooped it up and delivered it to the ranger station.
Ranger Della Yurcik answered the doorbell and when she saw the fawn in the arms of a tourist, she cried, thinking the baby deer would have to be euthanized.
Yurcik immediately thought of the bison calf in Yellowstone National Park that had to be euthanized last month after well-intentioned but ignorant tourists loaded the animal into their car thinking it was abandoned.
"People don't realize in national parks that we keep the wildlife wild," Yurcik told the Daily Sun.
"The baby just happened to be walking by when people came, so in their mind it was coming to them for help."
Yurcik scolded the couple and instructed them to put the fawn down and leave. She presumably obtained their contact information first since she told the Daily Sun she would likely issue them a citation. Handling wildlife is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail or five years probation and/or a $5,000 fine.
Despite warning signs throughout the Grand Canyon telling people not to feed or approach wildlife, they still do. Some tourists don’t understand that just because the mother isn’t visible doesn’t mean it has abandoned its baby.
Brandon Holton, a wildlife biologist in the park, told the Daily Sun it isn't unusual for mule deer and elk to leave their young bedded down while they forage for food.
"Unfortunately it's commonplace for them to leave their young and it's common for visitors to see what they assume to be abandoned animals," Holton told the Daily Sun. "They’re trying to do a good thing and humanizing these animals—I get that."
But it doesn’t help the animals. Fortunately, this incident has a happy ending.
Yurcik returned the fawn to the creek where it was found and wetted it down with a towel. Later that evening, rangers saw the mother come back to it. Two days later, deer and fawn were observed together again.
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