AN ANIMAL lover has warned people to leave baby deer alone even if they fear they are orphans, writes Guy Boswell.

Steve Hopper, who owns a smallholding at Ivybridge, has adopted a deer he called Millie which was handed into the vets by a well-meaning woman.

He has been amazed at how his dogs Fox and Bear have been parenting Millie, who is now four weeks old, while he has been acting as mum, waking at all hours of the night to feed the deer special milk.

Steve said: ‘I’m well-known by the Dartmoor Vets as someone who will take in animals if needed. Usually I take in birds of prey, but now I’ve got a baby deer on my hands unnecessarily, but she’s lovely and thriving.

‘In this case, it might have appeared as if Millie was alone or abandoned by people. But she would have been perfectly alright if she’d been left alone in the wild. The woman who found her was well-meaning, but misguided. She seemed to think Millie was alone and was at risk of dying or being in danger, but that’s not the case most of the time. Now I have an orphan on my hands and have to get up at silly-o’clock to feed her special milk. She’s doing really well, but what’s really amazing is how well my white German shepherds have taken to her. They groom her from front to back and take her for walk and run around and play as if they’ve adopted her.

They’re usually separated from my deer by a fence to protect the deer, but in this case, I can trust them completely. They both seem to like looking after her and she likes the attention and playing. But sadly, she’s imprinted on us, we are her family now, so she can’t be released into the wild and lead a normal life.. That’s ok while she’s small, but I’m not sure how it’ll work later.’

Steve has to feed Millie goats’ milk because fawns cannot digest cows’ milk and cannot put her in the field with the males, so she has become a surrogate pet, walking round the house and lying on the bed.