Wildlife rescuers on Vancouver Island are warning the public to think twice about taking fawns they believe have been abandoned by their mothers.

So-called "kidnappings" of baby deer are on the rise, especially on the mid-island, according to rescuers with the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society in Merville.

The centre has taken in a dozen fawns so far this year, more than it saw in all of 2017.

"They're a lot of work, especially since we do have them for such a long time," said animal care technician Kiersten Shyian.

Many of the fawns are showing up at the centre after being grabbed by well-meaning humans who see them alone and assume they've been abandoned.

"Most people don't understand that the baby deer has no smell on his body to attract predators and mom does," said animal care supervisor Reg Westcott. "So mom actually avoids her baby. She only goes in to feed and clean it, and she leaves the area."

In some cases, fawns have been taken into some people's homes and kept there for days before wildlife experts were called.

Rescuers at MARS say that is practically a death sentence for the young animals.

"They take the fawn inside and mom is still in the area, and then it's returned back outside later, and now the animal is too weak to even stand up and suckle from the mom," said Westcott.

Staff are hoping people will call before they take action and are asking the public above all not to touch any deer.

"We have bacteria on our skin that's not native to a fawn, and just a little as a fawn giving you a kiss on the neck could be bacteria into his little system that has no protection yet," said Westcott.

The "kidnapped" fawns require constant care that includes five feedings a day of medications mixed in with expensive fortified goat's milk.

The centre said it's grateful for any donations, but it would be even more grateful if people stopped interfering with wildlife.