I should have expected Tukker, our newly released orphan deer, to incur a few wounds in his first weeks out in the wild. For orphaned youngsters like Tukker, it’s normal to see scratches from barbed wire fencing and a few hoof marks from being run off by some other fawn’s mother. However, Tukker’s barbed wire scratches were deep and ripped a lot of hair from his back.
One morning as I walked with him along the fence line of the leased property to the west, I realized why Tukker’s barbed wire wounds were so deep. Tukker wasn’t gently dipping under the fences like I had seen many deer do, including Daisy, Emma, and Ronnie. Instead, Tukker was jumping right through them, between two of the wires. Tukker always has had to be different from all the other deer we’ve raised, and crossing fences was obviously another thing he was determined to do his own way.
A couple of days later when I spotted him following three other deer along the old river channel, I felt some hope that maybe he could learn to jump fences the way normal deer do. I spooked up the group of four, heard one give the “huffing” alert and all four turned to run, jumping the fence to the leased property. I was just sure Tukker was one of the fawns I saw in the group. Maybe he could learn to cross fences properly and safely by observing his new friends.
But then just a week later, Tukker came home with an apparent puncture wound and missing hair on his right, rear flank. Over the next few days, it became infected and rather angry-looking, so I cleaned it daily, but there was little else to do. Concerned the wound wasn’t healing, I conferred with Wildcare, a larger rehabilitation facility about an hour from here. The vet on staff looked at photos of the wound that I emailed to him and said, because of Tukker’s age and already being a little too frisky and wild to allow our local vet to examine him or deep clean the wound, he felt continuing to keep the wound clean, as we had been, was about all we could do. He was quite reassuring that the discoloration of the skin and the type of oozing coming from the wound was actually a good sign and part of the normal healing process.
As we continued to monitor Tukker via various game cameras on the property, we felt he had likely been gouged in play or possibly while being run off by another buck. The more we looked at the injury, the more it looked like an antler gouge. We had noticed Tukker hanging with a few yearling bucks at night down at the feeders, and sometimes saw him in the early morning daylight hours way down on the west end of the orchard, grazing and playing with other young deer.
A few weeks later, FD spotted him near the river while looking for antler sheds one morning. I felt especially good about this, knowing many deer traveled this area of the woods. Here, Tukker would be in good company and would have an excellent opportunity to learn the ways of his own kind. But apparently, the pull of suddenly finding your dad in the woods won over being with friends, and Tukker followed FD home that afternoon. And, for whatever reason, Tukker has been staying close to home ever since that day.
Our governor issued the COVID-19 “Safer At Home” order on March 24th. It has been since then and maybe a bit earlier, that Tukker seemed content enough to stay close to home as well. Each day I spot him over in our neighbor’s back yard. Steve’s yard has always been wild and woolly, and the other deer we’ve raised loved to venture over there too, despite the ferocious barking of Steve’s three dogs.
It seems Steve’s yard is an enchanted forest to all wild things. I’ve seen Ms. Foxy raise her kits there. Punkin, our orphaned squirrel has raised babies down in the bottom on Steve’s place. And our first orphaned deer, Daisy, always had her babies over on Steve’s property. His yard has every kind of cover, and ever kind of edible a young deer could hope to see. In fact, just yesterday I discovered there are even two Gum bumelia (see previous post) trees back there!
I guess, if a young deer who is free to roam wild feels “Safer at Home”, then dad gummit, home must be the place to be!
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