Wednesday evening found me in a rush to clean up dinner dishes so that I could run over to our neighbor’s backyard to check on Daisy. When I observed her earlier that morning, her udder appeared to be slightly larger than it had been over the past several days. I also noticed her resting a good bit the day prior, so I had a sneaking hunch her time to give birth was near, and was curious as to what area she had selected for the event.
With my dishes now stacked (OK, maybe “thrown”) in the drying rack, I crossed into the neighbor’s property through a small opening in the fence near the slope, and meandered through the wild growth of his backyard. Years ago, I could not have imagined anyone letting backyard property become so overgrown, but after raising Daisy and watching her browse about our property eating various plants and tree leaves, I have learned to have a great appreciation for the existence of natural grasses, weeds, and thickets of trees. In fact, over the years since Daisy came along, FD and I have become very wildlife conscious, and now take measures to ensure a wildlife-friendly landscape and not worry so much about it being pleasing to the eyes of the members of the “Yard of the Month Club”.
Snapping my thoughts back to the natural habitat of our neighbor’s backyard, I walked along calling Daisy’s name and speaking softly so that I would not alarm or surprise her. As it turned out, I did not have to venture far to find her. Daisy was lying on her side with her belly exposed, in an open, grassy area. I sat down beside her and we began our normal, mutual-grooming ritual for a couple of minutes. Daisy licked my arm while I picked a tick or two off of her and softly smashed mosquitoes on her face. Then I scratched her neck and head awhile, which she seemed to enjoy immensely.
I found Daisy resting in an open area between thickets.
Daisy’s belly has dropped, but she still has several hours ahead of her before giving birth.
Daisy would lay down for a few minutes, then get up and relocate. She was walking more open-legged now and could not seem to get comfortable.
When Daisy finally stood up, I noticed her belly had “dropped” – now hanging lower, rather than being as round and wide as before. Also, her vaginal area was swollen and her udder had more than doubled in size. She took a few steps and relieved herself, her tail stretched up and vaginal area puckering as she did so. Taking a few more waddling steps forward, she left even more scat, which were normal pea-sized pellets. Each time she stopped, she raised her tail as if stretching it straight up, while the puckering action of the vaginal area continued. FD arrived about that time, and indicated he thought she might be having mild contractions, but was probably still several hours from delivery. I was a bit disappointed at that news as, once again, I was hoping to photograph the event and be with Daisy during the delivery.
It was dusk now, and the onslaught of mosquitoes was relentless. I knew that even if I could have stayed out with a flashlight and camera, the mosquitoes would have made me insane. Besides, Daisy was still up and then down. She could not seem to get comfortable. Ultimately, I knew she must do this on her own as she had done the past two years. So I bid her good night, praying that her delivery would be easy and safe.
Of course, being the worry wort that I am when my Daisy girl is involved, I did not sleep very well at all. The hours slowly rolled by, and I only dozed a few minutes at a time. Then at 3:00 a.m., the thunder cracked and rain poured down. As I laid there in our warm bed thinking of my Daisy deer, I heard the howling of the increasing wind and steady hammering of a torrential rain on the roof. I thought of fawns coming into the world at such a time. I had seen Daisy brave the elements, even hail stones, over the years, but I could not imagine emerging from the warmth and security of a womb, only to be pelted by cold rain and sharp, biting winds. Finally, I found comfort in realizing the storm was Mother Nature’s way of cleansing Daisy and the fawns, and washing away any traces of the birthing event. This would lessen chances of predators detecting evidence of the babies.
This is the view of this year’s birthing area in our neighbor’s yard. No wonder Daisy chooses this area for her nursery – wild and plenty of cover to hide babies! Daisy used the low-hanging branches of the oak tree on the right, as cover and possible shelter from the storm that moved through in the wee hours of the morning.
Needless to say, when morning finally arrived, I hurriedly went through my tasks of getting the dogs medications doled out and then getting both the dogs and the juvenile squirrels fed. With that complete, I whipped up a quick breakfast, inhaling my own and shouting to FD that he would be serving himself and might possibly have to heat his up again. FD was still busy getting ready for work as I donned my boots, grabbed my camera, and quietly, but quickly, made my way to the neighbor’s backyard in search of Daisy.
I carefully walked through the area where I knew Daisy had given birth to fawns the past two springs, but found no sign of her. Moving on, I gently spoke her name and talked to her so that she would not be alarmed or think a predator was lurking near. Next, I checked the place where I had found her the day before, lying in the grass as if in labor, and worked my way closer to our neighbor’s house from there. And then, to my horror, I felt the sole of my rubber boot landing on a soft lump! Feeling this, I was able to avoid fully stepping on it by lunging forward a bit more, and only giving the lump a good bump as I stepped beyond. With both feet now firmly on the ground, I froze and looked down to find a wee fawn curled up in the tall grass, completely hidden in my footpath! Gracious, I had nearly stepped on my own granddeer!!
Instantly, I bent over to check on the fawn, who remained lying motionless in the grass. Still wet from the rain, the little fawn blinked an eye at me, as if to say, “Gee, thanks. If it wasn’t enough being born in a thunderstorm, a clumsy human has to come along and clobber me with a rubber boot!” I apologized in gentle tones, and lightly petted the little one’s head, feeling just terrible about how my boot must have felt to the tiny, newborn fawn. Before leaving it, I carefully lifted a rear leg and determined it to be a little doe. Again, speaking softly, I apologized and stepped ever so slowly away, not wishing to disturb her any further.
Daisy is resting about thirty feet from her fawns.
FD gently confirms the sex of both fawns.
Other than a mother’s watchful eyes, a fawn has little protection from predators the first week. Lying motionless and being well-camouflaged is its best defense. The mother also keeps it very clean and scent-free the first few weeks.
Now standing five feet away from the little doe, I removed my cell phone from my pants pocket and began dialing FD’s number, when I glanced to my right and found I had once again placed my boot very close to a second fawn! This one was more exposed in the weeds, though it had a young sapling next to it which offered a bit of cover. As I knelt down to pet it softly (finding that it too was a doe), I finally noticed Daisy lying under the cover of an oak tree just a few feet away, chewing her cud. At this point, I completed my call to FD, only to realize he had already come over the fence in his dress clothes. Apparently, he had inhaled his breakfast as well, in order to see Daisy and the new granddeer before dashing off to work.
After FD left for work, I spent a lot of time with Daisy, petting her head and smashing the mosquitoes that relentlessly attacked her cheeks. While petting her, I realized I should call my neighbor to tell him the news so he would be careful when letting his dog, Jessica, out for her morning bathroom business. Getting up, Daisy nibbled and grazed while keeping watch on her babies. Our neighbor, Steve, arrived about that time and, walking slowly to Daisy, received a hand lick as her approval to be in the nursery area. Daisy went about grazing while I showed Steve where the fawns were located. I suppose Daisy felt she could take the opportunity of having baby sitters, as she strolled further back into the yard to do a little patrolling in the immediate area. After all, the pesky foxes had been seen the night before and that morning already as well. With her babies born, Daisy would be on full alert at all times. At one point, Steve went inside and returned with hot coffee for us to sip while we continued to visit near the fawns. Daisy returned from time to time, finally nursing one fawn and moving it to another area. Nearly two hours later, she nursed and moved the other baby. Both were now located in tall grasses on either end of Steve’s back yard.
Daisy makes a small “buzzing” grunt to call her baby to her.
Five hours later, I finally returned home to fix lunch and give my back a break. I thought of Daisy, who had given birth just hours before, and was now faced with being a protective mother and defender of her young. I observed her twice during the afternoon chasing the young fox off with hooves a flyin! And, throughout the day, I watched her browse about like a voracious eating machine. She was often nose-to-the-ground, either catching scent of what animals might have passed through the area, or searching for her babies while mooing her call to beckon them to nurse. A few times, I saw her resting a short distance from where her babies were hidden separately.
Daisy is on guard and has already had a few tangles with the foxes!
Daisy rests nearby, chewing her cud. I never see her sleeping – she is always watching her babies who are hidden separately in the shade and cover of nearby trees and grasses.
Observing Daisy as a mother of two for the third year in a row, I realize how easy I had it raising only her. Daisy’s job as a mother is so much more difficult than mine was. Being raised by humans, she managed to tap into instinct to know how to handle her role as a deer mother in the wild. Unfortunately, she has suffered loss in the process – her first little buck to a bobcat attack in which Daisy was also wounded badly, and last year’s, six-month-old fawns that simply disappeared a week apart during the fall rut. Then finally, her yearling fawn, Spirit (who also lost her own fawn a month after it was born), disappeared in mid-February this year. FD and I have never able to determine for certain what happened with any of them. We hope Spirit has simply chosen to set up her own territory somewhere not too far away.
I continue to marvel at Daisy’s resiliency. She is my teacher and my inspiration, always displaying a determination and fight to make it through the struggle of life in the wild. She continually reminds me that, despite the conditions and circumstances we grow up in, or the events that happen to us throughout life, we always have instinct – the inner spirit and direction that resides within – to help us along and show us the way of living in the moment, and of finding joy in stormy times…
Over the first couple of weeks, Daisy will hide the fawns in separate places. She nurses them on different schedules too. In the wild, it is better to keep them separate in case a predator finds them. Both could be lost if they were kept together. Later, when they can run full-speed, Daisy will bring them together. But for many months, Daisy will be on high alert – always watchful and at the ready to fend off trouble.
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…