In the days and weeks after taking in an orphaned fawn, we always enjoy watching their personalities evolve. The eldest of our little trio this year, Scout, has shown us her staunch independence, reliance on instinct, and physical strength. She’s highly alert and is often the first to flee into the safety of tall grasses in the back of the deer pen when danger, (a delivery truck or a stray dog) comes on the property. She is also a fast and hard runner. In the cool of the mornings, I often observe her head down and running with purpose. Back and forth she speeds in the pen, stopping on a dime and pivoting to race just as fast as she can to the other end and back. Gracie and Ruthie seem more to be practicing their running, leaping, and jumping skills. They appear to enjoy the sport, but for Scout it seems to be much more serious business.
Scout’s instinct to blindly bolt at the slightest strange movement or sound, started in the house when she was just a few weeks old. While running through the house one morning with Gracie and our small Japanese Chin, Oscar and Lollipop, she crashed into a pet gate and got her head stuck between the vertical metal bars. Forrest quickly pried her head loose, and we removed the gate immediately. The dog gate had never been an issue with fawns in the past, but since the dogs were both house trained by now, it wasn’t necessary to keep the gate up anymore, and was obviously not safe for Scout. As a result of the crash, poor Scout was left with a few scrapes and a mild concussion. By the next week, we felt it was necessary to get Scout into a larger play area, so we moved her and Gracie to the deer pen. This would be the earliest we had moved fawns from the house to the deer pen.
During the first couple of weeks in the deer pen, we generally close the small barn door at night to keep the tiny fawns safe from any would-be predators, and to give the deer a comfortable place to bed down in deep straw at night, and in which to feed them in the mornings before letting them out in the pen. The barn door is covered in mesh fencing for air flow and visibility. This shelter had always been a safe haven for our orphaned deer. But Scout once again proved to us that it was not her kind of shelter!
The first thunderstorm to hit after we moved Scout and Gracie to the barn, brought forty minutes of pea-sized hail overnight. The next morning, we found a beat up Scout with patches of hair missing on her head and neck, and cuts around her eyes. She had evidently tried to run through the screen of the little barn door to escape the noise. Her strong flight instinct caused her to attempt to blindly flee the bumps in the night caused by the hail. Gracie on the other hand, was calm and had nestled down in the straw, unharmed. This time, the gate didn’t come down, but it did get vertical wooden slats added, to hopefully create a visual deterrent to Scout if she attempted to jump through the screening again.
Recently, our neighbor to the north was having some carpentry work done on his house. We could not see much about what was going on by looking across his backyard, as it has become heavily wooded over the years, so Forrest ventured out towards the street where he could see into our neighbor’s front yard to try and discover just what was going on. He did notice a fella wearing some kind of white, hooded suit over there and thought that was odd. But then, in his peripheral vision, he saw a fawn jump the neighbor’s fence near the street and watched it run off to the north and dive into the brush about a half of a block down. His first thought that it was one of the local wild deer, who often get snoopy and venture up out of the woods. On his way back to our house, he stopped at the deer pen, to find only Gracie and Ruthie. It was Scout who had jumped the property fence and headed down the street! Somehow she had managed to leap over the six-foot deer pen fence!
After realizing the fawn he had seen was Scout, Forrest took off for the street and walked into the brushy area where he’d seen the fawn disappear. I took the path to the woods down below the slope, and headed north towards the slough. I called Scout’s name and did the “mama” call, which is a little buzz noise deer mother’s make to call their fawns. It wasn’t long before I saw Forrest, with a nervous Scout following him close behind. Fortunately, it was not difficult to get her back in the pen. She seemed glad to see Gracie and Ruthie. But it took quite a while for her breathing to return to normal, and more than an hour to stop her from pacing and acting nervous. We sat with the deer during that time to help Scout settle down, just like a mother would do in the wild.
I was relieved when Scout stayed put the next couple of weeks. We often wondered if the man in the white suit spooked her, or maybe the noise of saws and hammering scared her. But then yesterday as I was gathering tree branches for leaf eating and other good eats for the girls, I saw a fawn dart across the driveway, looking panicked! It was Scout. Again, it was easy to get her back in the pen because she wanted in. Holding Gracie and Ruthie back while trying to open the gate was the difficult part. Luckily, I managed it.
I find myself checking on the girls more now. There isn’t anything we can do at this point to keep Scout from jumping the fence. I’ll look for her of course, should she jump the fence again, but I also understand the need to walkabout and flee, whether from fright or just to explore. Following instinct is always the right choice.
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