Being a woman with no children, I rely on the experience of knowing how my own mother and grandmother’s lives were. Adding to that experience, I have also known the mother’s of some of my friends somewhat well along with women whom I have worked with that were mothers. There are, of course, family members who are mothers too. Knowing these women gave me an idea of what motherhood entailed, but certainly does not make me qualified to give a speech on motherhood. The only close “motherhood” experience I can really draw on is that I helped out raising my youngest sister, Jules. I was twelve when she was born and I was said to be a “big help” to mom, who would have been in her thirty’s by that time. She once mentioned that raising kids after the age of thirty was entirely more exhausting than it was when she was in her twenties. Regardless of the age of the mother, I have found that one thing is for certain; at one time or another (or many times even) most mother’s suffer from a hair-trigger temper.
When orphaned fawn Daisy deer showed up three years ago, I got a taste of the rigors of motherhood. I will not go so far as to say my experience could come anywhere close to being a human mother. There were moments of laughter, elation ,and pride that filled my days. Along the way though, the emotional woes, worries, and concerns were much the same as any human mother would have. Being a deer mother was fulfilling. And I had to agree with my mother that raising kids becomes a real challenge the older one gets. I had just reached the milestone of fifty years old that spring.
During my motherhood of Daisy, the one thing that would set off my hair-trigger temper for sure, was any time I found a neighborhood dog on the loose, chasing my Daisy girl. Whenever this occurred, my temperament went from calm to RAGE in a matter of seconds. From this, I think I know the feeling of a human mother when her child is threatened; heartbeat pounding, an adrenalin rush, and the desire to kill whatever was after my girl.
In late spring of 2013, I could see that Daisy was visibly pregnant. A young mother-to-be, she moved around slower, but seemed to take it all in stride. Occasionally I saw moving bumps on her belly, and sometimes she would let me feel the kicks. Towards the end of her pregnancy, I might find her grazing calmly in the yard and then, as if suddenly startled, she’d jump and take off running. I imagine tiny hooves kicking just the right spot rather unexpectedly (especially for a first-time mother) might be quite surprising and painful! Still, Daisy seemed content during these months of gestation. A few days before giving birth, her udder became heavy and her mood changed. Daisy was secretive. Still, I managed to locate her hiding spots and, feeling sorry for her, would take a bit of water and feed to her, but she would usually take only a few sips of water. Resting was really all she desired at this time of her pregnancy.
Finally, on June 5th, Daisy gave birth to twins. I was flabbergasted! First-time does generally have only a singlet. I realized Daisy’s work was cut out for her now that she had a little buck and a doe. The first two weeks were a little crazy, like I would imagine for any mother. Daisy was on patrol constantly, on the lookout for predators. She had a regular feeding schedule – sometimes she fed them both at once but, most of the time, she would nurse them separately. She grazed almost constantly in order to produce the milk the young ones needed every four hours or so. She rested for only brief moments. I do not believe I ever saw her eyes closed during these short resting periods. She would bed down nearby her fawns, but always remained alert to movement or the smell of a predator.
For Daisy, the hair-trigger moments began the day those twins were born. She was ferocious about protecting her young. Anything that seemed questionable was investigated and immediately hoofed off the property! Ears back and hooves a flyin’ Daisy ran off potential threats with a vengeance! One morning, I saw a feral cat escape her clutches by the skin of its teeth. I think Daisy would have clubbed it to death had it not finally managed to get away. She was that fast and brutal in her aggression.
Unfortunately, even with constant vigil and ferociousness in protecting her babies, a bobcat took Daisy’s little buck about a month later. Oh, Daisy went to battle with the bobcat for sure, even sustaining extensive injury to herself in the process. I cannot imagine what that battle was like. For more than a week she mourned her boy, mooing around and looking for any sign of him. Clawed, bruised, with a bloodied and ripped ear, it took nearly a month for Daisy’s physical wounds to heal. Meanwhile, she still had the little doe, Spirit, to care for, so she did not mourn the loss of Rowdy for long. Soon, she was back to patrol and, once again, in full protection mode.
Over the rest of that year, I watched Daisy teach Spirit the ways of survival. Certainly this was due to her pure instinct, which I found utterly amazing. It had been one of my worries that Daisy would not know much of what she needed to know to survive when we set her free – yet she managed quite nicely as a yearling on her own adventure in the wild. As a mother, it was much the same for Daisy regarding instinct. It led her to know exactly what to do, and just came naturally.
For Spirit, Daisy provided lessons in many of the ways of a deer, including establishing dominance. Spirit watched Daisy hoof off other deer around the feeders. She observed Daisy giving feral cats a quick send-off. She learned that some mammals could be investigated but should be left alone – like opossums and raccoons. Others, like skunks, were only to be observed from a distance! And, there were times when Daisy had to give Spirit a knock or two with her hooves. One evening, I observed Daisy tumble and roll Spirit when she got in the way of Daisy running off deer near the feeders. As she became a young lady, Spirit watched and learned. And soon, we began observing Spirit practicing these learned skills. Several times, I saw Spirit showing dominance over Scarlet’s buck. And many times I watched Spirit investigate another mammal with caution, deciding whether it was to be run off, left alone, or given its distance.
This year, it is apparent that Daisy has established our immediate area as her territory. I had seen her defend it many times to other deer over the fall and winter but, this spring, as Daisy’s belly has grown once again, we have also noticed her instinct to protect and manage her “nursery-to-be” area. We have read that, when establishing a birthing area, pregnant does will even run off their own fawns from last year. So far, this has not been the case with Daisy, as we still see Spirit accompanying her when she comes to the feeder or up top to graze in the yard or pasture. However, the local doe we call Scarlet has apparently driven off her latest set of twins from her birthing area. They are often seen following Daisy and Spirit, and it did not seem to be a problem for Daisy to have them hanging around until about a month ago. Suddenly, Daisy had no desire to have these two in her territory! Many times recently, I have seen Scarlet’s twins on the run, with a big-bellied Daisy hot in pursuit! Apparently her robust state has not yet slowed Daisy down one bit, and her hooves are just as wicked as ever!
One evening last week, I was fortunate enough to have my camera at-the-ready and captured a few photos of the action. Scarlet’s doe and buck were up top nibbling on my blackberry shrubs. Shortly, Daisy and Spirit came up from the canyon and Daisy spotted them right away. In a flash, she went at them full throttle! She chased them through the woods and down through the bottom, where I saw all three leap the fence to the pecan orchard. All the while, Spirit stood still, watching her mother tear after the two uninvited intruders. I went down to see how far Daisy would chase them, and it appeared she intended to send them off towards the river! It was not long before I heard the bleat of Spirit – not so much like a fawn cry anymore, but a bit more mature sounding. She was looking for her mama, and soon her nose and instinct took her in the right direction, towards the river.
About thirty minutes later, Daisy and Spirit appeared back up top in the pasture and began grazing on weeds. All was now well in Daisy’s territory. I suspect it will not be long before Daisy gives birth again, and it will be another long summer of nursing, patrolling, and ferocious protection of her young. I am sure that any hair-trigger temperament on Daisy’s part is completely natural for a mother in the wild. And perhaps for Spirit, this time will provide preparation for life as a yearling – one who is becoming more independent and establishing dominance in the local herd. And of course, for Spirit herself, motherhood and the hair-trigger temper that comes with it, is just a year away…
© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…