A lesson from Mother Nature

Birth of fawns at Port High sparks concerns but students learn about the power of the maternal instinct when doe returns for its offspring

ALL EYES AT Port Washington High School were on a fawn that spent Wednesday, May 15, curled up in front of the school where it had been born the night before. Although the baby’s mother and sibling left it alone during the day, the doe returned that night for its newborn. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Sometime after 10 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, Port Washington High School night custodians Andy Schmidt and Debbie Banton noticed something odd outside the school.

“We saw a deer lying up against the building, which I thought was kind of strange,” Schmidt said.

The doe, apparently spooked by something, ran off, but returned a short time later. And when Schmidt and Banton saw her again, she was not alone.

“We saw one fawn curled up next to her,” Schmidt said. “Then she stood up to clean the fawn and we saw a second one.”

Mom and her two newborns were already moving around, so Schmidt and Banton figured they’d be long gone by the next school day.

They weren’t, and what may have seemed like a quiet place to give birth in the dark turned into a proverbial zoo at about 7 a.m. the next morning when Port High’s nearly 800 students and staff members began filing into the building.

The deer, still ensconced in the front of the school between the old gym and what is commonly referred to as Third Building, instantly became the center of attention.

“The deer were right outside one of the English rooms, so it was a little bit of a distraction, but the kids did a really nice job of staying away from them,” Principal Eric Burke said.

Concern for the new mom and her fawns spread quickly through the school. The area around them was cordoned off with yellow tape and the Department of Natural Resources was consulted. Students weighed in on what, if anything, should be done.

“One teacher said it was amazing how the kids instantly became DNR experts,” Burke said. 

Of particular concern to students and staff members was that at one point the mom and one of her fawns walked away, leaving the other fawn alone, curled up in a tight ball in the front of the school where it was born.

It’s not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns for hours at time while they forage for food, then return to care for their offspring, but try telling that to a school full of concerned staff members and students.

“The DNR basically told us to just stay away,” Burke said. “They said nature has a way of working things out.”

But a few hours stretched into the entire school day, and the fawn was still where its mother had left it.

Night fell on Wednesday, May 15, and Schmidt and Banton were on duty again when they witnessed a happy ending to the story they watched unfold.

In an email to Burke, Schmidt wrote, “Great news to report. At about 11 last night the mom came back. We didn’t get to see the reunion happen, but we did see the baby feeding off of mom, and after a few minutes they were off walking together.”  

They walked around the school’s performing arts center and were gone.

“Everybody was so concerned because they thought the mom had abandoned her baby, so it was a really nice surprise that she came back,” Schmidt said.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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