It has been a long, dry spell since I was last able to spend an entire morning walking with Daisy deer. Having lost both her fawns by early July, Daisy had been free all summer to run with the local herd of wild deer. Not seeing her around our home much, I suspected she was spending most of her time down at the river just a half-mile from here. Any time I walked to the river it was common for me to startle whitetail deer along the way. We did see Daisy a few early mornings down at the feed and water area throughout the summer and fall, but she was often with other does and a fawn, and we did not wish to disturb her little herd of friends, so we simply observed. We also felt comforted in being able to observe her at night via a couple of game cameras set up in the woods. These nighttime photographs also helped us understand wildlife activity going on in our area. I was not surprised at the frequent visits of red foxes, as we often see them during daylight hours, but there were also sightings of raccoons, and owls too. Lately, we were seeing a few whitetail bucks in the mix. After all, it is the height of the rutting season. If there are does around, there are sure to be bucks nearby!
Monday morning before the Thanksgiving holiday, we spotted Daisy down at the corn feeder by herself. FD and I had gotten up late, as he had taken the week off to work on a project under our house. I had not even managed to get my coffee yet, but I knew that would have to wait. I told FD he was on his own for breakfast, grabbed my camouflage jacket, a blaze orange headband (it is hunting season here), and my camera and out the door I went. Daisy was already retreating into the woods. Had I dallied around much longer, she would have disappeared and I would have missed my chance to walk with her.
After about two hours of following Daisy all through our woods and crossing into another neighbor’s wooded area, then finally jumping a fence back into the pecan orchard, she made tracks towards the old river channel. I got the feeling all along she was trying to lose me. A couple of times she took off on a fast trot, and there was no way for me to keep up. I saw her go up over the dike next to the old river channel and when I finally reached the top, I saw her just a short distance away, intently looking at something on the ground, but keeping her distance. I had seen this look from her many times – chance meetings with small mammals often kept her on alert, and she would tentatively investigate. Scent was usually what triggered the type of response she made. I was always amazed at how quickly she could exit from real danger, like dogs or coyotes. Smaller mammals seemed only to spur her curiosity. Daisy seemed to know to keep a distance from skunks, while she did not fear confrontation with a fox or raccoon. But this morning, after giving a juvenile raccoon a quick look and a sniff, she simply turned away and leaped over the fence and down into the old river channel. At this point, my morning walk with Daisy was over.
I knew immediately something was wrong with the young raccoon. It was not steady on its feet – trembling and teetering sideways or pitching forward, it could not seem to keep its balance. As I snapped a few photos and approached it a bit more closely, I wondered if it could even see me. The little raccoon seemed to hear me but did not look directly at me. Falling over as it tried to move away from my voice and footsteps, I could see she was a little female.
I had a bad feeling that this little girl had distemper or perhaps rabies. I was not sure about symptoms of either but I knew both canine and feline distemper was common in wild mammals, especially raccoons. We did not often see rabid animals, but I knew if that was the case I would ask FD to end the raccoon’s misery. Of course I am too much of a coward to handle a wild animal of any kind. FD has always been the one to handle adult raptors and wild mammals. So, I wasn’t about to throw my good camo jacket over this raccoon and carry it back a quarter of a mile to our home with my big camera in tow. Since FD was home that day, a quick text message to him produced an offer to fetch me with the buggy and have a look at the raccoon.
By the time he arrived, the little female had managed to hide in some downed limbs. FD put on leather gloves and pulled the growling, snarling juvenile from her hiding spot. He put her in a pet porter and we covered it with a blanket. I was thankful to have a ride in the electric buggy back to the house. Daisy’s traipsing around for two hours had worn me out! Once at the house, I called WildCare, which is a wildlife rehabilitation facility about an hour drive from our home. I often take them birds or animals that are injured, or a species that I am not equipped to handle. After speaking with a staff member, it was decided that I should bring the little raccoon in for an examination. Even though it sounded like distemper, the WildCare staff member suggested the raccoon could be suffering from an injury, or possibly it was a juvenile that had not managed to make it on its own and was weak from starvation.
A week later, after the Thanksgiving holiday and a trip out of town to visit family in Dallas, I emailed WildCare to check on the raccoon. Here is the kind reply I received the next evening:
Though this was sad news, I could not help but be thankful that Daisy had led me to the little female raccoon. We often think of rescue as saving or helping someone, having a mental picture of an outcome of bringing the victim to a better place or situation. This was a different kind of rescue call for me. It was an act of kindness and caring… of humanity. And, while I did not come out of it feeling elated with happiness about doing a good deed, I know that providing comfort and ending suffering was, ultimately, the gift in this rescue situation.
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…