It’s a YouTube story that’s almost too good to be true.
A good-hearted animal lover rescues a whitetail fawn born with an injured leg and abandoned by her mother and twin sibling. He nurses the baby deer back to health at his home, where his big dogs love and guard her. Then, a couple of weeks later, he releases her back to the wild, apparently to her own family.
It’s charming and well-edited (incidentally, the menacing scenes of bears and a wolf are cut in from another of Sasnauskas’ videos, taken from his stationary wildlife camera), but it does raise some questions.
PJ Media reached out to Sasnauskas – a Lithuanian-born outdoorsman and naturalized American citizen who has worked in commercial beekeeping – by email and phone, and the story behind the story emerged.
The video isn’t fiction, but it’s not entirely fact. Instead, it’s a narrative created around a real story, with some artistic license. What is absolutely true is that Sasnauskas discovered that if he didn’t save the fawn himself, she wouldn’t be saved.
Sasnauskas said he inquired about taking the fawn to a vet or a rehabilitator, only to be told that sort of thing wasn’t available for a whitetail deer in his area.
“They don’t have a program to rehabilitate a fawn,” he said. “They probably do for eagles and stuff, some other species, but deer are very common, so they don’t even try. They just tell you to kill it, or they gonna come and shoot it.
“The area is very remote. It’s very far away from civilization.”
So that’s why Sasnauskas took it upon himself to save the little deer. He searched the Internet to find what to feed her, and then drove to a feed store in a nearby town. There, he bought Sav-A-Caf Ultra 24 Multi-Species Milk Replacer, which is suitable for several species of young animals, including fawns.
“She loved it,” he said.
Some other elements in the video are less documentary and more docudrama.
For example, Mack, the gentle Bernese Mountain dog who lavishes affection on the fawn, doesn’t belong to Sasnauskas, but to a colleague. And, the video captioning states that Sasnauskas didn’t have his camera with him on the night he says the fawn was reunited with her mother. But in truth, he wasn’t there at all.
“I know I put the caption that I didn’t have my camera,” he said, “but I didn’t think it was that big a deal. She was released by a few of my friends and my colleagues. The mother accepted her. She started nursing her right away.”
“It happened over two days. The first night, she came back. They brought [the fawn] in again. She laid down on my shirt, spent the day at home, and that evening, the mother shows up. It’s a longer story than I can tell right now.”
Sasnauskas says it’s good that he wasn’t there, since as can be seen in the video, the fawn would have followed him, rather than returning to her mother.
Online sites dealing with wildlife rehab say it’s highly unlikely that any doe would accept a strange fawn. The odds seem almost as long that anyone could have located the fawn’s actual mother, let alone that the doe would take her offspring back after she had spent two weeks being handled by a human and licked by dogs.
“I know,” Sasnauskas says, “but she did. That’s what the Wildlife Department is saying – it’s a nine out of ten chance that the baby will die, because the mother won’t accept it. And there’s a nine out of ten chance that a mother won’t accept another baby.”
But, he says, high mountains border the valley where the fawn was born. The local deer move in a restricted area, so he feels that the original doe didn’t stray far.
Despite his noble intentions, Sasnauskas apparently has run afoul of the authorities. So, he’s staying mum on his exact profession or location, except to say that he commutes between California and the area around Yellowstone National Park.
“The Fish and Wildlife Department are already looking for me,” he said. “I got the call today. They want to know if that baby deer is still around, because they’re saying it was no chance that the mother would accept it, but you know, she did accept it.”
And there exists a video of the release, shot by Sasnauskas’ friend on an older model iPhone, but he says it’s of poor quality.
“He sent me the video,” Sasnauskas says. “I tried to fix it, but it was really hard to see what’s going on there. I’m thinking maybe I’ll make another video with my friend. He’s a really good storyteller. He could explain everything that happened.”
Now that the video has gone viral, Sasnauskas’ life has undergone some disruption. He pulled down several of his videos from YouTube to conceal his location from the curious (which doesn’t include wildlife authorities, who know where he was near Yellowstone).
He’s being inundated with offers from companies who want to market his video in some way. After seeking counsel, Sasnauskas is inclined to go it alone on YouTube.
“I’m hoping to go back to normal life,” he said. “I’m just going to keep making these videos, which will be pretty cool, maybe make a little money off YouTube. That would be great.”
Sasnauskas has also gotten offers of a more personal kind.
“I got,” he said, “I don’t know how many marriage proposals.”
Even though he says he has headaches and is losing sleep as a result of his newfound celebrity, Sasnausakas isn’t sorry he took in the helpless fawn.
“No,” he said, “I don’t have any regrets. I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t leave her. They’re really beautiful animals. I can’t explain everything. It all fell into place so perfectly.”