For the last couple of weeks, I have had so many topics for blog posts running through my head that I wanted to write after the New York City series, that I have been itching to get on the computer and let my fingers fly. My mind has been so full of new ideas, recent happenings, and other updates, that I have not been able to get through a simple, little task or chore around here without thinking about the next post. Would I write about all of that roasted tomato sauce I had been mass producing for weeks now? Or should my first post be an update on Daisy and her twins? Plus, I have all of these photographs from weeks past that I want to share. But then yesterday evening, a new topic came to the forefront.
While I was preparing dinner, FD came in the kitchen announcing that Spirit, Daisy deer’s fawn from last year, was at the feeder and he was going to take some cherry tomatoes down to toss to her. I replied that was great and it would be at least thirty minutes until dinner anyway. We had been seeing Spirit a good bit lately, as she had been trying to get back in Daisy’s fold by hanging around hoping her mother would allow her to stay. At first, when her twins were still small, Daisy did not want Spirit anywhere around at all. She would run Spirit off every time she came near, sending her deep into the woods. But over the last three weeks, Daisy has been allowing Spirit to tag along with them. Once able to get close to them, Spirit was very curious about the new babies, and it did not take long for her to accept them. And the twins seemed to enjoy having a big sister, often following Spirit around in the evenings. Spirit seemed content to be back with her mother and, one day, I even noticed Spirit babysitting her siblings. Seeing this brought back memories of when Daisy was a yearling and I would observe her down in the bottom, near the old water tub, watching a fawn or two that belonged to Scarlet, a doe from the local herd. Now, seeing Spirit doing the babysitting, I was convinced it must be a common practice for does to allow yearlings to babysit their older fawns.
With Spirit back in the fold, FD and I had the opportunity to observe her from close distance, and I had a growing concern about Spirit. She had not looked well to me. She was generally bedraggled, her mid section was very large and odd looking, and she seemed tired. My first thought – always one of worry – was that she might have a tumor or something else wrong with her. But, she was likely getting plenty to eat, as it had been a very good year for vegetation with so many welcome rains. And of course, we also keep high-protein deer chow, corn, and fresh water down at the bottom of the slope. Still, she did not look well to me at all. I mentioned something to FD about my concern, and he agreed that she looked unusually large in the belly, even compared to Daisy. He suggested the possibility that she could have come into estrus late, which would make for an unusually late pregnancy for a deer, but we discounted this idea after we looked at her rear end. There was no sign that her udder was filling with milk.
So, back to last night. When FD returned to the kitchen shortly after he had gone off to toss some cherry tomatoes to Spirit, I was a bit surprised at his demeanor. He looked very serious, only saying, “Come outside with me. I want you to look at something”. I looked back at him quizzically, let him know I was in the middle of cooking, and asked if it could wait. But again, this time with a bit more urgency, he stated, “I really need you to look at this”. So, now fraught with worry, I quickly turned off the stove burners and wiped my hands. All I could think of, was that something bad had happened to Spirit.
I did not even make it off the porch before I saw what FD wanted me to see. I stared in disbelief and, though I knew exactly what had happened, I did not want to believe it. FD looked at me and said that he had not even been sure, when he first saw her, that it was Spirit. But, with no sign of alarm after talking to her and beginning to walk towards her as she drank from the water tub, it was obvious that this was, indeed, Spirit. So, while I scrambled to put shoes on, I asked FD to fetch the camera and we walked down the slope together, still in disbelief at what we saw… or rather what we did not see! Our big-bellied, yearling granddeer, that had looked so tired and unwell, was suddenly slender and sporting a voracious appetite! As I moved around with the camera, I only managed to get a couple of shots of Spirit’s newly expanded udder and extended nipples that had obviously been suckled. Spirit was a mother!
FD and I talked about how this must have happened. Spirit would have conceived in late January or sometime in early February, long after the normal rut of November, and even after the “second rut” which occurs in December when the un-bred does of the first rut come into estrus once again. For Spirit’s pregnancy to have happened, which it obviously did, a buck would still have to have hard antlers and enough testosterone to be interested in a doe in estrus. FD thought back to an evening this winter when he had seen a buck chasing Spirit down the slope near our pool. Daisy, who we felt had been bred back in November, was alongside Spirit that night, but the buck’s interests were clearly focused on Spirit. Apparently, Spirit was healthy enough to have started estrus, even though it was very late in the season for a buck to be interested.
Just as we had witnessed with Daisy the year she birthed Spirit and Rowdy, Spirit now displayed an urgency to eat quickly and get back to wherever it was her baby was hidden. But, before she could finish eating, Daisy and the twins showed up. Though Spirit still cowered from Daisy, she had no desire to deal with her siblings and quickly hoofed poor Heidi away from the feed pan. This must have been confusing to Heidi, as her sister, who had been so fun to hang around with, was now on the warpath! This behavior too, was something we had witnessed with Daisy as a new mother, and now Spirit had that “Mama attitude”. There was a new confidence about her and she was ready and willing to defend her “nursery” territory.
Back in the house, I finished preparing dinner but could not take my mind off of Spirit and her newborn fawn. At least in Oklahoma, I thought, this baby stands a chance of surviving the winter if we do not endure unusually harsh temperatures and weather conditions. I wondered if Spirit would come into season again during the November rut, if she had finished nursing this fawn by then. Ultimately, I knew that nature would take care of things, and there was nothing my worrying would help or solve. Moreover, it was clear that Spirit was nursing and was in “protective mama” mode. She looked healthy. And she had trotted back west into the woods with urgency. It was her first time for motherhood, but what did I really know of nature and its ways? Perhaps it would all be just fine.
Of course, there I was this morning, out in the woods enduring the sweltering heat and mosquitoes, hoping to capture a photo of my first great-granddeer! But I know it may be a while before I get that photograph. The woods are still too lush with poison ivy, brambles, and slithering snakes for me to venture very deeply into them but, by golly, I will keep watch! And, as Daisy did with Spirit and Rowdy, and Heidi and Dancer, Spirit will bring her fawn around when the time is right… or could there be two… hmm…
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