Being a Deer Mother…

August 2011, All of my kids!

Early on in the raising of Daisy deer, I did not think much about my role as the mother figure.  Our little orphan needed someone to care for her and I was here all day.  FD and I had raised many orphaned birds and a squirrel, so I knew this would be another learning experience and a lot of work.  There is really no way to prepare oneself for the experience of raising a wild animal.

Daisy just a few days old at her feeding station.

In the beginning the feeding schedule was hectic.  I mixed goat’s milk formula each morning and bottle fed her five times a day. The first three weeks we kept everything sterilized.  She was tiny, maybe all of 8 pounds, so her feeding station consisted of a shallow tub filled with cat litter.  While holding the bottle in one hand, the other hand rubbed a baby wipe on her genitals to get the bathroom business going. Like many mammals, the baby does not have the ability to relieve itself on its own for the first few weeks so the mother stimulates it by licking.  In the wild, the doe will lick the urine and feces from the fawn while she’s nursing and ingest it.   This keeps the fawn from being detected by predators.  Now, I consider myself a very good deer mother, but I do admit to skipping this part of the business! After feeding, I would take a small baby brush and gently stroke Daisy’s coat, mimicking licking as the doe would do to bond with her baby.  This action also distributes oils on the hair, and the mother’s saliva contains a number of components that have been shown by scientific research to act against infection and promote wound healing.  Daisy took up licking my arms or neck while I gently stroked her with a brush.  It was our bonding time.

A typical evening watching a little TV!

The first month and a half Daisy lived in the house with us.  After feedings, she would scamper around with the dogs a few minutes, then head for cover, as she would in the wild.  Her hiding spots were behind the couch, and in the back of our clothes closet.  This is where she spent much of her day, sleeping and resting.  Of course tile floors were not safe for her to walk on with her slick little hooves, so to Dollar General I went, purchasing several inexpensive floor rugs to get her from one carpeted area to another.  She seemed to understand anything “off” the rugs and carpet was dangerous.  She had fallen a couple of times while frolicking with the dogs.

FD and Daisy on an evening stroll.

Before long bottle feedings were becoming less frequent but she was taking in more ounces.  Small cut-up apple slices and carrots were incorporated into her diet.  We tried goat kid pellets but she ignored offers of those.  I had read we should encourage her to nibble various greens.  She didn’t seem interested in those either.  She did like fresh dirt, which I had read is needed in their diet to aid in digestion and stomach development.  Like a cow, deer have a stomach with 4 chambers.  Daisy was also interested in exercise.  She loved playing with our four Japanese Chin in the house, but what she really loved was a walk or run in the evenings.  FD would put a small dog harness on her and a 20 foot leash and off she’d run. Instinct always took her to the woods, FD sprinting after her, not far behind.  I did not enjoy taking her for these walks.  Even at her small size, she was strong and wayward about being walked like a dog.  FD was better at picking her up than I was.  Those long legs were unbelievably strong and efficient at kicking.  I had been clubbed enough times to refuse carrying her.

The days of pee pads and wet beds!

At one month of age, Daisy began urinating on her own.  I first saw her let loose on the living room carpet. I hurried to put something under her but it was too late.  Deer can pee buckets of urine at a time.  Soon my laundry increased  two additional loads a day.  Daisy would either pee her bed (which was a small dog bed in a corner) or on one of the rugs or pee pads placed under her in her sleep areas.  This was not going to do!  It was time to move our little juvenile outdoors!

Uncle Patric taking time to feed Daisy on barn cleaning day!

Within a week, family from Dallas had been dispatched to help put up fencing and clean out a section of the old barn.  A friend donated straw bales for bedding.  By July 5th Daisy was in her new quarters.  A long row of cannas between the two barns provided her hiding spot during the day, and at night she sought out a corner inside the barn.  And I, like any mother, worried all night long, getting little sleep for the next two months. Our fence was only 6 feet tall.  I worried something could get her since she was still very tiny and unable to defend herself.  She was lonely a lot.  She cried out “naaaaah, naaaaah, naaaaah”, until either she became tired, or went to the cannas to hide.   Sometimes I came to pet her and walk around with her for a while.  Other times I grabbed an old glider cushion and lay on the ground beside her.  She seemed better with her mama around.

Daisy looking after me while I nap.

The summer was hot and brutal.  Daisy lost a lot of her hair, which I suppose, was a natural reaction to the heat.  My garden quit producing, so I left the spoils to her.  She ate the carrot tops and I dug up a carrot or two a day for her. The celery was dry and looked bedraggled.  Daisy loved it!  She nibbled on bean plants, and a particular type of potato we had planted that we didn’t like the taste of.  She munched on cucumbers all summer, and we fed her a few cherry tomatoes that managed to survive the scorching hot sun.  The old apple tree let go of a few, small apples, though most of that crop was destroyed by a late freeze in the spring.  Daisy loved apples.  She couldn’t get enough of them. After our supply was exhausted, to the store I went.  Fresh, crisp apples from Washington became a weekly item on the grocery list.  Finally, she began showing a little interest in deer pellets.  Her appetite growing, we often laughed about her football-shaped belly – regulation, NFL-sized.  If we went out with snacks for her it was time to “feed the football”!

Daisy enjoying her last bottle. Look at the frothy, milk mustache and the dreamy eyes!

Always educating myself and reading up on deer, I noted that fawns learn what plants, fruits and vegetables to eat from their mothers.  Great.  This put both of us at a disadvantage.  FD had a habit of feeding Daisy leaf shoots off of the old apple tree, and leaves from the persimmon tree near her pen each morning on his way to work.  This went on all summer, and then one day I noticed something had been nibbling on  my nearby cherry tree!  That prompted me to go to the other fruit trees on the property.  Sure enough, deer were coming up on the place and having late night feasts on my fruit trees!  They had also eaten on my blackberries and raspberries.  Instead of being upset though, I was tickled.  First of all, other deer were coming up to Daisy’s fence.  I hoped, at some point, this would help her get in with a herd when we freed her. If they were familiar with her scent they might not hoof her away.  Secondly, I realized that the current vegetation on our place provided many sources from which to help Daisy get what she would need in the wild.  To keep her diet varied we began looking around and being more observant about plants and trees on the property.  We trimmed trees, giving her the branches in order to strip the leaves off for food.  She seemed to like the leaves that were turning yellow best.  The old persimmon tree, hack berry trees, and various fruit trees took turns daily being trimmed.  Daisy was always delighted when a new branch came over the fence.

Daisy eating my raspberry plants through the fence!

I cut wild vine from the woods, and trimmed gangly rose stems from various rose bushes.  Most evenings you can find me with a basket, gathering acorns that have fallen from a nearby Red Oak tree.  A friend across town gathers Burr Oak acorns for me from her yard, and FD gathers acorns from White Oaks in a wooded area he hunts this time of year.  Early this autumn, we took the spent garden area and tilled it up, planting peas, oats, turnips and other greens for a food plot.  Daisy loves her greens and one can find her out grazing most all day long.

Down in the canyon further back in the woods where light spills into an open area, we tilled and sowed another deer plot for feeding. This spot contains a more invasive crop of deer grazer that we hope will be around for years.  All around the 10 acres, we are aware of what we have to offer the deer.  I realize next year, when Daisy is on her own, we will have to take precautions to keep the garden safe, and my berry plants safe.  The fruit trees will grow taller and only the lower limbs will be at risk.  We’ll lose a few things… maybe I won’t have so many roses, flowers and herbs like I used to, but I do not mind.  I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

I know there’s a cucumber in here somewhere… I can SMELL it!
Nothing better than your own oat patch!

I suppose like any mother, human or animal, I have done the best I could with Daisy.  I am thankful to the universe for sharing her with us and for insight in appreciating the “deer people”, as the Native American’s would say.  Daisy is a gift in our lives, as is every living creature.  I am quite certain there will be other little orphans who will come our way and, as many times before, we will take them under our wings to nurture and give them a chance to survive.

Daisy today, getting a little love from her Dad.

When we first found Daisy, while researching online, we contacted a wonderful woman from near the Abilene, TX area who had raised a fawn doe more than 8 years ago.  She was helpful in encouraging us and offering advice when we had questions and concerns.  She shared her experiences raising her fawn, named Sassy.   Sassy still comes to visit them regularly.  She brings her fawns to meet her “people herd” each spring.  Sassy’s herd family is 7 generations strong now.  I hope our experience with Daisy is long-term too.  I hope she’ll come to share an apple or wander up from the canyon to spend an afternoon bedded down in the shade among the trees.  I hope she always feels safe here.  Regardless, if she never gives us another thought, like all deer mother’s, my hope is that she enjoys her life, wild and free.

I think she gets her whiskers from FD’s side of the family!

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


280 thoughts on “Being a Deer Mother…

  1. Imádom a fotókat! Köszönet érte,hogy egy vad állatot befogadott! Aranyos ahogy a kosárban ül.
    Védje,óvja ameddig lehet! Remélem nem viszik el idegen helyre.
    Szeretem, szeretem!

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    1. Thank you so much for responding! I am so glad you enjoyed the story. I am a licensed rehabilitator of wildlife and do my best to protect and care for animals until such a time they can be released to the wild again. It has been such a wonderful experience with Daisy! Thank you again for your kind comment!

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  2. This was such a lovely story to read to start my day and I find myself just as moved by your responses to all the comments as by the story itself. Thank you so much for your integrity and compassion, and for sharing your story about little sweetheart Daisy. If it’s all right with you, I would like to put a link to this post in my blog later today.

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    1. By all means you may post a link! I’ll check with Daisy, who is busy ruminating the morning, while chewing her cud, but I’m quite sure she’ll agree!! Thank you so much for reading Daisy’s story. It is a beautiful story to tell, and one that has brought much emotion for me. Daisy is another facet in this grand journey with nature and wildlife. I am so very thankful that she chose to teach me the ways of her kind. Thank you for sharing my story.

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      1. Thank you. I have been planning to write about the urban deer where I live and the sometimes hard discourse that has emerged around them and urban wildlife in general, and I think I am emotionally blocked when it comes to that post. I need to get over it. I wanted to share that with you because that is where I wanted to include a link to your story. So it will come soon–now that I’ve outed my intentions I just need to do it! Thanks again for your stories.

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  3. What a wonderful surprise to find this morning while I was drinking my coffee. Heartwarming and caring.
    What a beautiful little creature, I have a number of deer in my area and when they come to eat my grass and flowers I talk to them and take their pictures, the babies are not shy and this just thrills me.
    I just wish more people could enjoy these wonderful encounters.
    I am looking forward to the followups.
    Kathleen H.

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    1. It is such a wonderful to experience getting close to these beautiful creatures. I find myself so many days, observing birds and other little critters carrying on with their busy days. It’s difficult to explain how humbling it is to have quiet moments observing. Much of my blog reflects on things I have learned living near the woods and interacting with nature so much. How wonderful that you are able to take time to enjoy what the deer have to offer. It is indeed, a thrill to be allowed a small window into their world! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience.

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  4. i had a terrible day at work today but upon reading your blog and seeing the deer pics (it’s innocence) i feel so good!

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    1. Thank you. For the most part, people are positive about what we have done. There are a few nay-sayers but most of those opinions stem around personal perspective, which I respect. We try to do what is right for every orphaned animal/bird we take in. It is a labor of love we gladly accept for the good of nature. Thank you for your lovely comment!

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  5. Lovely story!! =)

    I love the fact that there are still wonderful people like you protecting animals =)

    Greetings from Spain!

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    1. I am so happy to get messages from all over the world! I believe there are many of us who help animals and wildlife. It is such a blessing to have this time with Daisy. Thank you for commenting!

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  6. What a wonderful story – I am sincerely thankful that there exist people such as yourselves who take these wonderful animals to heart, but still do what is best for them by eventually letting them go – any mothers’ job really – loved this post.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment. The idea is to help them along until they are old enough and ready to survive on their own. Daisy and Holly are ready now, but we felt it important to wait until the hunting season had ended here, making it safer for them to run free. I hope they will stick around nearby, and perhaps always be in the area.

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  7. Long live Daisy!! How wonderful to nurture God’s creatures like this. Such dedication on your part too. Did you ever read James Harriott “All Creatures Great and Small”? Love it!

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    1. I have all of the James Herriot books! My mother bought them for me for Christmas many years ago. I have always had a love of animals. It is truly a wonderful life here to be able to do what we do. Thank you for your nice comment!

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  8. This is amazing what you are doing!! I am a soon to be volunteer at a sanctuary near my home and they have a little faun too and I hope to get licensed so I can bond with her! They seem so very lovable 😀

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    1. I wish I lived closer to the rehab center in this area. It is more than an hour drive for us. I have referred people to WildCare of Oklahoma, when I could not take an animal/bird on, or it was a species I was not familiar with or had time to learn about. Rehabbing does take a lot of devotion. I think learning at a sanctuary would be an awesome way to gain knowledge about care of animals/birds. That way, when you get a license to do your own thing, you will have some know-how behind you and not have to research so much, nor go by trial and error, which I have had to do. I have had some failures because of that.

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  9. Wow. I believe we may just be kindred spirits! I have always wanted to live on a farm, and don’t intend on giving up that dream. I have a daughter who absolutely adores wildlife and and she and I both want to open an animal rehabilitation center. I’m in school now working to receive a degree in Ecology, and she plans on becoming a wildlife biologist. It’s so amazing what our little four legged friends can teach us about life, isn’t it? Your story is quite an inspiration! And little Daisy, well she just steals the heart! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your journey for people like me to be blessed by. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your very kind words. I hope that you and your daughter achieve your dream to run a rehab center! I am so happy doing what I do. I think the animals have taught me much more than I ever helped them with though. Animals are so resilient. These little critters we have helped have always managed on sheer instinct. We just gave them a little boost at the start. It’s an amazing life rehabbing. Do not give up on your dream… be positive! It will happen! Blessings to you!

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  10. What an incredible story – how inspirational! And what beautiful doe eyes she has! I’m sure she will always remember you – I don’t believe animals forget 🙂 Will definitely be following your blog. xxx

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    1. Thank you so much for reading my blog! I hope that Daisy will always remember me, and I hope when she is free she will remember this is a place of safety for her. Animals are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. I hope she will make frequent visits… just like family would. If not, it will be as it should be and I will remember a most beautiful experience.

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    1. Thank you! My husband and I have a lot of opportunity to photograph Daisy. We have a nice Canon camera and some great lenses. Daisy is not camera shy, but she is difficult to photograph because she follows us everywhere, and often tries to nibble at either us or the camera! I can’t count the times she’s licked the lens! She is a beauty though… very photogenic!

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    1. Thank you! Being a state-licensed rehabber only makes what I do legal. We receive no state funding for what we do. The time and expense is “on us”, but we do it gladly. I have seen websites where the larger rehabbing operations go non-profit, which helps out with funding. For me it is simply a way to help wildlife as best we can.

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  11. Raising a wild animal is so much fun! We’ve only done one deer, but we’ve also raised owls and falcons (having a falconer in the family can be fun!). It’s amazing how much you learn from them. 🙂

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    1. Wow! Bravo to you! We have had opportunity to rehabilitate owls but took them on to WildCare of Oklahoma. They are the bird experts in this area… however, it would be cool to raise an orphan… but oh, what a commitment! You are so right, there is much to learn from them and about ourselves! It’s wonderful to meet another animal-friendly person! Keep up the awesome work!

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  12. Love your story it is wonderful that you would take the time to raise an orphaned fawn. I love the pictures she looks so content. It makes me extreemly happy that there are still people out there that care about wild animals.

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    1. Thank you so much! It has been a wonderful journey… some difficult moments too, but that is life. I am thankful at this time I am able-bodied and still have the energy to take on raising these beautiful animals and helping to rehabilitate the injured. It is a commitment, to be sure!

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    1. The first time I viewed this I was aghast thinking these kids couldn’t possibly know the danger they could have been in. However, it being a young buck and being so gentle with her it ended quite well, and even on the hilarious side of things. I’ve watched it several times now… it’s really interesting footage! Thanks for sharing DS!!! Hey, a slow day on the goat farm is a GOOD day, I say!

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    1. I think deer realize small dogs are not a threat to them, that is why Daisy did well with our 4 small Chin. I have many pictures of Daisy… some are very beautiful. I love that particular photo too. She really loves the camera… she likes trying to eat it too!! LOL Thanks for commenting!

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    1. The fawns you saw may have been older and more wary of humans. Daisy bonded with us when she was too young to know danger. We saw another fawn earlier in the spring. It had gotten a leg caught in some buried fencing. When FD went to help it get loose it cried out and a doe showed up immediately. He stepped back, putting the fawn down, and the two deer ran off together. I would like to think they have understanding that we are helping. Thank you for visiting!

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  13. Wow, what an incredible story and adventure you had! It is so odd to see a deer indoors, and surrounded by human objects. I hope she does well on her own now!

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    1. It felt a little odd with Daisy in the house. I still have those Dollar General rugs all over as we adopted a rescue dog that is terrified of the tile! Daisy found the tightest spots to hide in. Often I couldn’t find her until I had combed through the house a few times. I hope too that she does well on releasing her. I really think she will stay nearby in the beginning. Thanks for responding!

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, actually, I have some old stories to tell too, but it is often difficult to find time to write. You might find the stories on Frosty the squirrel interesting to read. Just click on the squirrel category and the posts should come up! I have many photos that I keep handy to help me formulate what it is I wish to write about. Often, while I am outside doing chores or in the woods gathering browse for the deer, I think of ideas for the next blog post. I carry my camera with me when I am able. You can be sure that I will continue to write about my adventures here with nature and wildlife. Even our domesticated Japanese Chin dogs and the foster dogs are interesting to read about. I enjoy writing… I just need to be better at making time to do it!

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    1. Thank you! It was a joy to write. There are other posts on Daisy deer, a couple on our orphaned squirrel, Frosty, and on our dogs and foster dogs that you may enjoy. Thank you for visiting!

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    1. Thank you for visiting! It’s been quite the experience raising this special little girl. As with any new orphan experience, they end up showing me something of nature and life, having appreciation for the existence of all species. I am enjoying this time of my life… learning from the deer people!

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    1. Thank you! Daisy has been an amazing journey for me, in a year where I needed her companionship, and perhaps, a greater understanding of her kind. Daisy has shown me how to relax, how to create quiet and peace where I was always in a rush before. Each of us “gave” a little where our worlds collided. I slowed down to accommodate her peaceful world, and she learned to trust a human and live in the human world. She shows us more each day that she is ready to venture to her own world now. It will be a sad day for me when she leaves, but good for her to be free. Thank you for commenting!

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  14. We used to look after orphaned Kangaroos and Wallabies exactly the same way. It’s a wonderful feeling to know you have done something because its right. It’s the best gift there is. The gift of help:)

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    1. Thank you for reading about Daisy. She is indeed a beauty, and has been a delight to raise. I often marvel to think of how tiny she was when we first took her in, and what a beautiful, young lady she’s become.

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    1. There have been so many sweet times, and hilarious times with Daisy, but there have been some frustrating and difficult times too. Because we want to return her to the wild, it is more of a challenge to help her acclimate to what her life will be when she’s free. We hope the transition will be an easy one. She is adorable… I need to write about some of the funny times with her. Thanks for commenting!

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    1. Thank you Gino! Daisy is outside in the rain today, pacing the fence. It will be only a month now and she will finally be free. It is wonderful to know people from all over the world are thinking of her and wishing her well on this journey she takes! I will tell her about you this morning when I give her a snack!!

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    1. Thank you! Daisy has made for an amazing year. I can’t begin to explain how I feel about her. I will miss her when we return her to the wild, but I will be happy too, that she will be where she belongs. Hopefully, she will return from time to time.

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    1. Thank you! There are other posts on Daisy if you enjoy reading about her. Clicking on the “Deer” category will take you to stories related to her. She’s been a real delight to raise.

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  15. Wow how amazing, I am soooo glad I found your blog, I cant get enough of it.
    How wonderful being a deer mother and Daisy is just beautiful.
    Lots of love from Scotland Kx

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    1. I am so glad you are enjoying reading about my life on this little piece of land! I need to get back to writing, especially about Daisy. She visits nearly every day. This time of year there is much to do and I find myself yearning for a keyboard to jot down all that I see and experience in nature. Today was about King Birds chasing off a Crow, a very pregnant doe feeding down below at the corn feeder, rain falling with distant thunder rumbling, and Daisy deer showing up three different times. I continually find myself being side-tracked by critters and nature. Thank you for reading my blog. It means so much!! Lots of love to you, my deer, new friend!

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        1. You have inspired me! I was having a bit of writer’s slump. Knowing people enjoy my blog makes me feel so happy! Thank you for giving me the boost I needed to get going again!

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  16. Great story…AND, does anyone have advice for care of an otherwise healthy fawn with a spine injury–back legs are paralyzed, but the little fellow is too happy to put down. Thanks.

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    1. Thank you John. That is a tough situation… I’m not sure how a game warden would view that. Likely, the fawn would be put down or left for nature to take its course… which both are sad outlooks. It is, of course, illegal to have a deer as a pet. I think this is a situation where exceptions should be made if someone is willing to take on caring for a handicapped animal.

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  17. im raising a little fawn buck was 3 days when i got him. i want to but dont want to release him when it cones time because he is a buck n will b hunted. i would be more at ease if ge wore a doe. ive only had him now for a week n have become very attached to my luttle bambi n the thought of someone hunting once hes n touch with hunans breaks my heart already so im thinking of getting a permit to keep him. can u give me the site to do so. i have a petting zoo n he would have run of the property n interact with kids n adults. my friend has 300 acres but wouldnt promise not to hunt him so i will not give him to him. he lucks me to death n already gives kisses n folliws me. yes hes in my house r now lol. hes under my vets care r now n getting fresh goat milk every 3 hours. when can i had apples n carrots? he is around 2 weeks r now n as i write this he is licking me the whole time lol shirt n all lol.any info u can help me with woyld b greatly appreciated

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    1. What a journey you’ll be taking! I had to get a permit from the state to rehabilitate wildlife. I must renew that license every year in order to take in any wild babies or injured wildlife. In this state (and I think most all states) it is illegal to keep a wild animal penned or as a pet. And it is never a good idea to let the deer interact with any other people – especially children. You are liable if someone gets hurt. If he is used to people and dogs, you have set him up not to fear people – which could get him killed. And sadly, often when the game warden realizes you have raised the deer as a pet, they may decide to kill the deer to protect the public. That scenario has happened in several states. There are many things to consider when raising a deer. Your first priority is the deer and being able to return it to the wild, doing your best to keep it as wild and instinctive as you can while you raise it. That can be difficult… but it’s necessary for your deer to survive on its own one day.

      The thing you’ll realize in a few months is, bucks get wild and can be aggressive. You’ll be turning him loose sooner than you would like to I’m afraid. You’ll wean him at 3 months. You’ll need to put him outdoors as soon as he begins urinating on his own. Possibly a large pen with shade. Daisy was about a month old when she started going on her own and we built a 6 foot fenced area with a barn and shade. You’ll want to make sure the fencing is such that your buck won’t get his hooves or legs caught in it. Breaking a leg is certain death for a deer.

      If you get online you can probably glean a lot about raising deer – educating yourself about their habits, foods, and what to expect raising one. Here’s a few sites I earmarked:
      http://ezinearticles.com/?Raising-Deer—How-to-Bottle-Feed-a-Whitetail-Deer-Fawn&id=657030
      http://britishwildlifehelpline.com/feeding_fawns.html
      http://www.suwanneeriverranch.com/WTinfoJfawns.htm

      Good luck raising your little charge!

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