Letting Nature Take Its Course

“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.

I found this leg and hoof of a fawn while I was searching for Daisy after we had released her. This was likely the leg of a fawn killed the summer we were raising Daisy.
I found this leg and hoof of a fawn while I was searching for Daisy after we had released her. This was likely the leg of a fawn killed the summer we were raising Daisy.
In the winter and spring months I often find remnants of a kill in the orchard area near our home.
In the winter and spring months I often find remnants of a kill in the orchard area near our home. This is deer hair.

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.

You can make out the form of the coyote in the center of the image. The entire hind quarters was red, raw and hairless from mange. The rest of the coyotes coat was bedraggled and thin.
You can make out the form of the coyote in the center of the image. The entire hind quarters was red, raw and hairless from mange. The rest of the coyotes coat was bedraggled and thin.
This image comes from the WildCare of Oklahoma Facebook page. This coyote was recently brought in with severe mange. Prognosis for survival is not known yet.
This image comes from the WildCare of Oklahoma Facebook page. This coyote was recently brought in with severe mange. Prognosis for survival is not known yet.

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…


32 thoughts on “Letting Nature Take Its Course

  1. Oh, that’s sad about the coyote with mange. While I think many of us have our particular “favorite” animals, and we want to protect them from predators, it’s still hard to see any animal, predator or not, suffering from something so painful. If only there was a way to eliminate all suffering in the world….

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    1. Historically, going through times of suffering in the world has often opened the doors to enlightenment. For me, the coyote started out as a threat to me (in my mind). Deciding that day in the woods, to photograph instead of feeding into my anger about the coyote’s presence by chasing it off, allowed me to see the predator in a different light, and to trust that nature would take care of the situation. Once again, just as with the release of Daisy, I must trust that nature will take its course. I must “let it naturally evolve”.

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  2. A dilemma for sure about whether to feel sorry for the predator or not. Disease and even war are ways that human over population is controlled. So it is not wonder that disease wipes out animals as well. I think coyotes are beautiful animals but when they eat something that you have raised it becomes a different story. And if they come after dogs and cats then I no longer feel sorry for them or admire them. That’s why my cats are all indoors and my yard is completely fenced but even then I am pretty careful to watch my dogs. The little ones don’t get to run unless they are on a long lease and I’m right there. I feel for you and the trepidation you must feel about releasing your orphan fawns. Take care Lori, you are in my thoughts.

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    1. I know you understand well, Yvonne. While on one hand I am glad that nature is taking care of the coyote problem to an extent, I do not like to see anything suffer. It is not that I worry so much about death itself… for it is a release and (to me) a wonderful part of the journey. Misery, discomfort, pain and suffering do not appeal to me in any way. A quick kill (by predator) or bullet to the head or vital organs does not bother me so much. There are so many emotions in all of this – and I have to trust Universe and know that I did my very best.

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  3. It’s going to be bittersweet to see Emma and Ronnie run free. What a gift to have helped them and all those before them. And the dilemma of predator and prey is one of nature’s challenges for us humans. Sadness and comprehension create all sorts of mixed emotions. Thanks for another great post. ❤

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    1. Thank you, Paulette. It is a bittersweet time. But as I look back on what I have learned and gleaned from these years with the wild things, I realize the connected-ness of so much more than the superficial way we look at life. These critters have taught me so much about living and letting go.

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  4. While I am sad that mange hit your local coyote population, I was happy to read your post – For me, I often feel like the checks, balances and diversity of life in our world is not always understood and/or respected – Yes, I was raised on a small ranch – Yes, neighbors engaged in coyote hunting – but my dad shared with me a different perspective – newborn calves were brought in after a difficult birth – coyotes were left alone when they yipped and howled from the dry creek bed area, but Dad was outside, front and center when they got desperate enough to attack the immediate house and corral area – He always maintained that a pack of domesticated dogs dumped into the wild was more dangerous than a coyote pack – and he felt any diseased animal deserved to be put down by humans, just like carnivores weed out the weak and diseased of the herd in the wild – – I guess, for me, I STILL struggle, even with the upbringing I had, to feel confident I make the right decision from day to day – BUT I do love that I was raised by one who had much to lose, but could still understand why the coyotes ventured near to ‘our space’ , when the rabbit population was hit hard – 🙂

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    1. I grew up much the same that you did, and I do struggle as you do. I railed against the killer dogs that my neighbor has had for more than a year now. Defeated, I realized there was little I could do. (And your Dad was correct – dogs are much more dangerous than a coyote. Coyotes kill what they need to eat while dogs kill for the fun of it.) I disliked having seven foxes on the place this past summer, but there was nothing to do but allow nature to run its course with them too. Between the dogs and the foxes, our woodlands suffered death everywhere over the spring and summer. Now the coyotes have taken the deer from the area. We have not seen Daisy since early September, and now the foxes have disappeared. It feels empty and lonesome here. I try to calm myself as my neighbor’s dogs growl and bark at us every time we step out of the house. But being angry only makes me suffer. I have but one goal and that is to free Emma and Ronnie and be positive that they will survive. You really hit the nail on the head for me in your comment – I’m torn between reasoning like a landowner and protector, and trying to make the right decision, if there is one. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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          1. If it brings an extra perspective that helps – at one time in my life, I lived in a place where red foxes were under siege – my son loved them, and when my son died unexpectedly, the appearance of the beleaguered foxes, , was a balm on my heart – though I realized (and apologized for my take on the matter to my neighbors who had chickens) – Sometimes, the perspectives and variables all are so much to navigate – 🙂

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          2. Oh, how true that is! I am sorry for the loss of your son. I too would have found comfort in the presence of the foxes.
            This summer a fox vixen had her kits under a small out building just a stone’s throw from our chicken barn and pen. Do you know they never once bothered our chickens? The kits ran around the fencing chasing each other and paid no attention to the chickens at all. We have never had a problem with foxes and chickens on this place. Raccoons and opossums have killed chickens though, and a few hawks like to hang around but have never taken a hen.

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          3. I’ve always thought, in international diplomacy, if I and another Wife/Mom could sit down and share what was “Important” our top lists wouldn’t be that different – I think of such things for the animal kingdom moms, too – 🙂 But, that seriously, is not taking into account the male of various species – which shows my blind spots – – – LOL My childhood was full of warnings over the vicious and aggressive nature of badgers & weasels – to date, I still wonder, “Told by parent protecting it’s own young – or True, no matter what?” – 🙂

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  5. Watching nature take its course is enlightening as well as difficult. I recently saw a fledgling bird that had fallen too soon from its nest. It did not look well to me, but I made the decision not to interfere. I didn’t know if the parent would return or what might happen. The next day when I walked passed where I’d seen the bird, it lay dead, surrounded by ants. I felt sad. We sometimes think we should have done more. The next day when I passed the carcass was gone, probably taken by a cat or dingo, and so nature’s circle of life continues. I’m looking forward to you telling us about the release of Emma and Ronnie, and am hoping many stories of their survival and offspring will be told as well. Thank you Lori, for being so honest and open. It’s good for all of us.

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    1. Oh Ardys, your last two sentences brought on the tears. I appreciate when others are open and honest. It is good to hear other’s perceptions and hear of their experiences. We are all in this, and we all grow up with beliefs and ideas, and then go out in the world and have our own experiences and discover who we are and who we are not. Sometimes I have disappointed myself with decisions I made about rehabilitating wildlife, but I also knew I did the best I could at the time, and the gift in the experience was the animal or Universe showing me something.
      Your experience with the fledgling was similar to a situation FD and I witnessed this summer. Two fledgling cardinals were found on the ground. They did not even have all of their feathers. We put them back up in the nest only to find them back on the ground minutes later. All day I watched from the back porch, but never saw the parents. That evening we talked about taking them in, then decided not to. Just at dark, the parents came with bugs to eat. Then flew off into the woods for the night. I feared the worst, knowing the foxes were always on the prowl during the night time. The next morning both babies were gone. I searched everywhere and under the flowerbed shrubs. No feathers or sign of trouble was found. So I had to hope for the best. Either way, we did what we thought was best. Sometimes it is better not to know the outcome.

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  6. Lori, I am excited for the release of Emma and Ronnie!

    I think in this case I might put the poor Coyote out of it’s misery. Do other mammals get this type of mange? Ghastly stuff! 😦

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    1. Lynda, we have seen mange in the past, and FD did put a skunk out of its misery a few years back. It was blind, almost completely hairless with raw patches of skin all over its body. In cases like that, it is the kindest thing to put it out of its misery. I have not seen this coyote since, but I am sure if Forrest sees it he would do the humane thing.
      I am ready for the kids to be free. They are getting antsy, but it really makes sense to wait until after hunting season is over. The man who grazes cattle on the orchard found the head of a spike buck last week. Likely I hunter killed the young buck, discarding the head (from what we could tell). The kids will at least be safe from human hunters when they’re released.

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  7. I have trouble looking at these photos, but suffering is part of life whether we like it or not. Hard for me to stomach, but necessary. I too thank you for exposing us to the truth of the matter. I know your heart must ache with it every day. You carry such a precious responsibility.

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    1. What beautiful words, Charlotte. They’re like a balm of love to me. Nature can be difficult, and I have learned to accept it, but that isn’t without times of deep mourning or a troubled heart. Daisy’s first loss of fawns was so difficult. Now, I feel sadness with each loss, but I must tell myself perhaps it is better to quickly be taken and never know the struggle that lies ahead. I really do believe that in the moment of death (of the body) the soul experiences the grandest moment. I believe all living things know this parting and freeing of the spirit. How can I linger too long in sadness, when the real gift of life is in parting? 🙂

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  8. So many lessons for us in that forest. It used to drive me crazy how things never seem black and white in nature. But now I’m kinda grateful, even if it’s frustrating to find Answers. My loyalties shift from the overpopulated deer to the hungry wolves, our cutthroat trout in the pond to the osprey and ducks they feed, and from the wily to gray jays to the pesky stellar jays. Even the foxes look adorable jumping in the snow. But I cringe for the cute big-eared mice they catch. I love them all. So my heart hurts just a little every day, because it’s all so beautiful and complicated and ultimately unknowable. 😊

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    1. I completely agree Monica. And I know ultimately, that death is a wonderful part of this life, but humans tend to create quite a different view of it. Nature has, in some way, allowed me to look at it from an animals perspective – yes, I believe they grieve, but the emotion doesn’t linger and take over life. Animals move on and create again. I still do not know how to deal with the protective side of myself… wanting to protect Emma and Ronnie, or how to view human predators (on other humans), but I do know that death itself is not to be feared, and rather a beautiful release in moving on.

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    1. Yes, Audrey, you’re right. It wasn’t planned either. These were just my thoughts being a protective mother to Emma and Ronnie, but also having compassion and wonder about the coyote… making realizations about life and death.

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  9. Curiosity stirred by your coyotes have led me to TX parks/wildlife sources about them. There was a recent article about how adaptive they are and how many live in cities and urban areas. I known some actually live around downtown Houston and get stuck in parking garages sometimes.
    Coyotes are supposed to be lazy hunters and go for small prey like rats and rabbits if given a choice, but if environment/weather/cold limits food supply, hoofed meals work. So farmers and ranchers have just reason to dislike them.
    I wonder if the mix of feral dogs with/around coyotes can change hunting behavior.
    Nature is so complex.
    Rest and eat up little deer ones. The world outside the pen is so big and you so small. Trust. We have to trust things will go well or at least as they must.

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    1. Yes… you are so correct. And I know that perhaps just as it was with Daisy – showing me that I needed to trust and let go of worry – here I am again at this very same crossroads with Emma and Ronnie. It will be what it will be. I must trust nature will take care and let my worry go. Whatever we have done was the best we knew how to do.
      People ask if I am sad about Daisy being gone so long or am I worried? She has been free five years now. I do not think any wild animal has it easy. Life out there is full of danger and woe. She has managed, and I have been thankful to have learned so much about deer and their ways, thanks to her. She has been the greatest teacher of my life.

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