“We often want it so badly that we ruin it before it begins. Over-thinking. Fantasizing. Imagining. Expecting. Worrying. Doubting. Just let it naturally evolve.” Egypt ~ The Good Vibe
In five weeks, deer hunting season will end and, on January 16th, we will release orphaned fawns Emma and Ronnie. Five years ago, we set the same release date for orphaned Daisy deer and injured yearling Holly. Our reasons for waiting until January were two-fold. The risk of hunters looking for an easy kill would be over, and the rut (breeding season for deer) would be near its end. Over the years we had observed Daisy and her babies during the rut, and it was evident many fawns were taken down by predators during this time of confusion. What with the mother doe being chased by bucks, the young probably could not keep up, and often we just never saw them again. Of course I blamed the coyote population in the area for the loss of so many deer during the rut.
In the spring while walking through the pecan orchard and river bottom area, it is common for me to find bones and various parts of young deer. And in the spring months it hasn’t been unusual to witness foxes killing smaller mammals. Many offspring are born in the spring and the demand to feed the young is tremendous. Any time we set orphaned squirrels free, I hoped for the best. It is why it has been so pleasing to know that despite a large fox population in the area the last two years, Punkin, Francesca and Buddy have all managed to survive. It speaks to me of their tremendous reliance on instinct.
As Daisy’s mother, it was difficult watching her pace the fence the last month we had her penned. It isn’t much different with Emma and Ronnie this winter. Like teenagers ready to explore the world and feel their oats, Emma and Ronnie yearn for something more. I work to make sure they still get browse and plants from the woods to supplement their diet, and we try to provide stimulation to keep them from being bored. An old bucket without a handle serves as a sparring device for Ronnie. He also has a tree trunk mounted in the pen for rubbing his little antlers and leaving scent. Emma has begun the art of dominant hoofing – raising up on her hind legs and attempting to hoof FD or me. She also has a mean rear leg kick that I have observed her use on Ronnie a few times when he had his nose up her rump. They are growing up. By release day they will be between seven and eight months old and more than ready to run wild.
Though my worry and over-thinking about Emma and Ronnie’s survival is not as bad as it was when we released Daisy, I still find my stomach in knots anticipating what their first days or weeks might be like. The recent coyote sightings – nearly every trip to the orchard and old river bottom, do not make me feel good at all. I try to remind myself that Daisy managed to outwit them, and somehow Spirit, one of Daisy’s eight fawns survived, and how a few other woodland fawns over the last five years have been seen from time to time. I remember too, how many times Daisy showed me that instinct, and how adept her body was to heal when she was injured, indicated that Nature had prepared her for survival. And of course, after witnessing so much loss with her offspring, and realizing how difficult survival in the wild can be, I wondered if a sudden death wasn’t easier, than lingering and suffering.
Two weeks ago while clearing a new buggy path in the old river bottom area, I spotted a coyote in the distance. Once again, it was in the same area I had seen several of them, close to the old river channel, looking to the pecan orchard – in the direction of our place. I chose to try to get photographs instead of chasing it off with the buggy. Thankfully, it was a damp morning and the leaves were soft and pliable. There was no crunching to give away my presence, and the wind was in my favor – taking my human scent in the opposite direction from the coyote. Even though the coyote spotted me visually at some point, I decided to cut into the old river channel itself and wait to see if the coyote took the same path I had seen it and other coyotes take along the water’s edge. I did not have to wait long. Slowly it walked along the water, nose down. I was appalled. The coyote was sick. It had mange. Its entire hind quarters was nearly hairless. I only managed one blurry photo as there were too many trees and snarl of brush and vine to focus through, but the photo could not do justice to the sad sight I saw. Eventually the coyote disappeared to the west, but not before stopping to scratch a half-dozen times.
A rancher friend mentioned that a couple of years back an epidemic of red mange had killed out a large population of coyotes in this area. Once established mange is highly contagious. It is a skin disease brought on by a parasitic mite, causing hair loss and inflammation. Extreme itching and pain eventually leads to a miserable death. I read that foxes and coyotes primarily suffer this disease, during periods of over-population.
I did not feel so elated as I thought I would feel, knowing that this particular coyote would live the remainder of its life in pain and misery and would probably not last the winter. I wondered if this disease might spread and if perhaps it was nature’s way of dealing with the over-population. Over the past months, I admit to feeling callous about the coyotes in the area. I was busy being a protective deer mother. I never considered that nature had its own way of taking care of the situation, and that it would cause me to think differently about my attitude about predators.
© 2016 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…