Nottingham Nature Nook to expand recovery care for injured fawns

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INGHAM COUNTY, Mich.—Injured fawns in Ingham County will soon have a new place to recover.

Cheryl Connell-Marsh, owner and founder of the non-profit animal rehabilitation center Nottingham Nature Nook, said she wanted to renovate the front of her barn to accommodate older and injured fawns.

“My dream that I had for the last, probably five years, has been that I wanted to turn it into kind of like an outdoor hospital for these older fawns,” Connell-Marsh said.

The barn’s two new stalls will be equipped with IV lines and slings for paralyzed fawns. During their recuperation, injured fawns can hear and smell uninjured fawns, while at the same time staying separated for their safety, which Connell-Marsh says helps aid in their physical and emotional healing. The two new stalls help to extend the duration of time staff can provide care and give them a comfortable rehabilitation space.

Courtesy of Cheryl Connell-Marsh

The two new barn stalls provide proper space and care services to older and larger injured fawns.

Rehabilitating a fawn can take up to five months. Connell-Marsh and a team of volunteers help to wean the fawns and care for injuries. They only feed them food they could find in the wild, such as grapevines, mulberry branches and wild apples. 

Construction of the addition to the barn began in early January and is expected to be completed by early March. Anonymous, animal-loving donors funded the project, which cost around $7,500. 

The number of orphaned or injured fawns they rehabilitate annually has been increasing. Car accidents and separation from their mothers are the main reasons.

There were 58,984 deer-involved car accidents in 2022, according to the state of Michigan’s 2021/2022 Traffic Crash Summary Report, a 13% increase from 2021. 

Connell-Marsh said she thinks as deers’ habitat decreases, they’re forced to come into contact with people and dangerous environments more frequently.

“I think it’s cars and people driving too fast,” she said. “A lot of them, it costs their life. I would say 50% who get hit by a car don’t make it. They’re just too little.”

Courtesy of Cheryl Connell-Marsh

Most fawns sustain injuries from human-related activities such as car accidents or getting trapped in man-made structures like fences.

Former Nook intern and current volunteer Mackena Rhadigan agrees. 

“We get a lot in the spring, at least while I was there, that had been hit by cars. Or they found them in a gravel pit or something human-related that they got stuck in,” she said.

Data from the Michigan State Police Department is not yet available for 2023, which would indicate whether or not the rates of deer-involved automobile accidents have increased yet again.

Nottingham Nature Nook not only cares for fawns but also for a wide variety of Michigan wildlife. They’ve rescued baby squirrels, songbirds, rabbits, foxes, minks, groundhogs and more.

Courtesy of Cheryl Connell-Marsh

Fawns are rehabilitated in Nottingham Nature Nook’s outdoor barn.

The severe weather and multiple tornados in August of 2023 led to an inundation of baby squirrels in their care.

“This year things were a little crazy just because of weather patterns,” Rhadigan said. “We got those big storms last fall that brought in a lot of baby squirrels just because they were knocked out of trees.”

Severe weather impacts wildlife by destroying their ecosystems either directly or indirectly. And as NASSA data shows, the frequency of severe weather events is increasing globally.

In addition to the fawn barn, plans to renovate the bird rehabilitation building, or “bird room,” are underway.

Connell-Marsh said she is excited about the addition to the barn and the advanced care her team will be able to provide. 

“Fawns to me are one of my favorite things to raise because they’re just the kindest, gentlest creatures,” Connell-Marsh said. “When you release them you’re happy. But at the same time, it’s really hard to watch them go because it’s something you’ve given your heart to.”

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