Meeting the Neighbors

I remember, all too well, the day the city police animal control truck drove up the driveway, with our first rehabilitated and newly released fawn, Daisy, lying in the truck bed, unable to move except to loll her head around with eyes rolled back, making light grunting sounds. Apparently, she had ventured into a neighborhood on the north side of town, more than eight blocks from here as the crow flies. Some woman had called the police about a wild and dangerous deer threatening the safety of her grandchildren who were playing in the yard. When the animal control officers arrived, they darted Daisy as they would a dog of similar size and weight, and threw her in the paddy wagon. Had it not been that they stopped down the street at a barbecue restaurant for lunch, where a neighbor of ours from north of the orchard overheard them talking about what to do with the deer they had in custody, I have to wonder what would have happened to Daisy. In her tranquilized and nearly-unconscious state, Daisy would have been coyote bait out in the wild. Fortunately, the officers brought her to our home, where I lay beside her and kept her blanketed and warm until Forrest could make it home to help move her to her old pen for a few days until she could recover and find her bearings again. It was a terrible experience.

After that, we felt it was important that at least a few people know about the work we were doing with fawn rehabilitation. Most of the city fellas who worked down at the park knew about Daisy and kept an eye out for her. Despite me walking to the west with her, to help her acclimate to the river area, she was continually seen crossing park road, just a few blocks to the north, and then venturing further to the north and east along the river channel. And while she never did leave our front gate or jump the fence to the street along the front of our property Daisy was smart enough to know that her babies were safe here. She knew most predators would not venture so close to town, and certainly not close to a house or buildings. For many years, Daisy had her babies on our property, mostly keeping them hidden either in her old pen or in the over-grown flower beds around the old rock house.

We often see passersby photographing the deer, and sometimes they stop to ask about them. Forrest attempts to lure the girls away from the front gate.
Right now there are lots of good weeds to nibble at the entry to the property.
More good weeds and greens near the rock house.
Sometimes a good nap is in order, where there is street entertainment as well. These four girls have never been spooked by cars slowly passing by. Ruthie is at the forefront, then Scout, Gracie and Penelope.

Our next fawns, Emma and Ronnie, found their share of trouble too. Ronnie wasn’t the instigator, Emma was. She jumped the fence a few times, going into the neighborhood to the south, while Ronnie stayed on our property, concerned and pacing along the fence. Once, not long after we’d released them, we took off for a weekend in Dallas, only to have a neighbor report to us that she’d seen a selfie of a woman with Emma on Facebook! Obviously, there was nothing for us to do about it, and the neighbor later reported seeing Emma jump back over the fence a short time later, where she and Ronnie took off for the woods where they belonged.

Tukker deer never gave us a bit of trouble. Perhaps being a lone buck who seemed more interested in Forrest and me than strangers, is what kept him close to home. Neighbors did report seeing him, but he always kept a distance. He did not fear humans, but he wasn’t inclined to find trouble with them either. This past fall during Tukker’s first rut, was the first time we witnessed him venture very far away. Even then, it was to the west either on our orchard property or further west to the leased property. We were also seeing him on game cameras with other bucks. We couldn’t ask for a better experience for Tukker. He seemed to have great instinct which, for a buck, is necessary for survival.

Knowing the curious personalities of a couple of the girls in this year’s group of fawns (primarily Scout and Ruthie), I shouldn’t have been surprised last week when Forrest alerted me that he had just seen Scout, Ruthie and Penelope go out the front gate and head east down the street! Forrest was on an important phone call, so I bolted out the door and ran as fast as I could. We’d had the front gate open for the arrival of two deliveries, and had just been keeping an eye out for the deer. I had only opened the gate that morning after watching the deer venture off to the woods. Normally, they find a place to bed down in the woodland and don’t return until hours later. As I approached our front gate, I saw Gracie watching the others trotting down the street. Gracie has always been reluctant to follow the others past the safety of home base. Many days, she stays behind while the other three venture on towards the old river channel.

With Gracie still safe at home, I quickly shut the gate behind me and ran to catch up with the three runaways. Soon I realized I could not catch them, because the faster I ran, the faster they ran – just as they would in the wild if there was danger! My running only added to the mayhem. To top that off, people began driving slowly past them, some stopping to ask me questions while getting their cell phones out to take photos. I continually asked people not to drive alongside them, but to park and wait. I finally turned towards the south at the last block before we reached the busy, main road ahead, to try to lure the girls back in my direction. Hopefully, I could get them to follow me back down the street towards home. Any other route would mean heavier traffic and an area where most people had big dogs in their yards, which would cause even more stress to the deer.

Finally, a young man, who had been walking ahead of me for a couple of blocks while recording the deer with his cell phone, noticed my peril and turned around. Thankfully, Scout and then Ruthie followed him as he headed towards me. I had already managed to get Penelope to come to me by doing the mama call. Normally, I would have felt foolish making the mama call “buzz” out loud in front of anyone, but it was a dangerous situation. Four blocks later, all of the deer filed through the front gate onto our property, and the young man disappeared into a house at the end of the block. He was a neighbor. One I didn’t know, but I had managed to thank him several times on the trek back. Had he not helped me, the deer could have been hit on the highway that runs through town. Scout was just a half block from that busy road.

One morning, a neighbor on the south side of the orchard photographed the girls in his neighborhood. Thankfully, this street is a dead-end so it is not heavily trafficked.

In the past week, Forrest and I have been meeting some of the neighbors we don’t know. We are trying to bring awareness of our goals in helping the fawns acclimate to the wild and educating a few people about how to help. We’ve discovered some of the neighbors with property bordering the pecan orchard have been putting out feed to draw them in for their “viewing enjoyment”. We discourage that, but it isn’t something we can control. I have to hope that people are good and kind, like that young man that helped me lead the girls back home last week, and the folks we met do seem to be of that mold and truly appreciative of what we do for the deer. I try to be positive and thankful for opportunities to work together as neighbors, friends, and stewards of the land, for the good of the deer and for all of the wild things with which we share this neck of the woods.

Forrest has been leading the girls on walks to the Washita river, about a half of a mile from our home. This is the region the wild deer roam along the river bottom, and where Scout, Ruthie, Gracie and Penelope should find comfort as well.
Forrest leads the way along the edge of the woods.

© 2021 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


33 thoughts on “Meeting the Neighbors

  1. I love that last photo especially, with the ‘daddy deer’ in the background and all the heads turned his way. I would very much like to hear your mamma ‘buzz’ sound Lori 😆 An enjoyable post, as always, Lori, thank you. I was especially moved with the story of Daisy and could picture you laying with her with the blanket over her until Forrest could move her. SO lucky that you got her back. xx

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    1. Thank you, Ardys! About Daisy, you know when we had Ronnie deer stitched up after being run over by a combine, we learned from our local vet that the amount of anesthesia required for deer is very minute compared to what a dog would require by weight. The vet said the amount they would give a kitten would be the same for a small deer. In that case, Daisy was very overdosed. We were fortunate the police didn’t kill her by darting her. All they would have had to do was clap and shout or raise their arms and Daisy would have run off.

      The buzz is a noise that I learned when daisy had her own babies. It’s done softly, and sounds like a short, “e” sound. It’s sort of a deep grunt. But the day the girls went down the street I’m quite sure my mama call was loud and more like a high-pitched EEEE sound than a low grunt!! Ha ha!

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  2. Do deer there actually get dangerous? That sounds like an unhealthy situation for the grandchildren, if the grandmother is teaching them to fear harmless deer. When we were kids, we were instructed to not bother them, and that was all.

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    1. Tony, you were taught well. I have only heard of deer danger during the rut – if one got in the way of a buck and his girl. There are some videos showing hunters being attacked/hoofed by bucks. It is all about respect – as you said, don’t bother them. Back then, Daisy had a blaze orange collar, so it was evident she was raised by humans. One of the police officers was horrible to me. Even after I told him I was licensed and said she was not a pet but released to the wild, he still accused me of keeping her as a pet and he was going to have to report me to the game warden. Of course I work with the game warden and he assured me he dealt with people like that every day and not to give it another thought. I learn from the game warden almost every year that people report us when they see deer on the property. 🙄

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    1. Oh, me too, Anne! It was a terrifying few minutes. I’m still keeping an eye out for that young man that helped me. If I had seen just which house he went into I would have gone down the street to thank him AGAIN!

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  3. These are the times when you get to know the true nature of your neighbors … luckily everything turned out fine. That interview seems like a good idea indeed, so at least people know what it’s really about. It was fascinating to read this story and to know that you take such good care of these animals.

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    1. Rudi, you make a good point about the “true nature” of people. It’s certainly something to consider if we do an interview with the newspaper. What we do not want is a lot of attention, or people coming by to “see” the deer. In fact, the state Department of Wildlife Conservation discourages rehabilitators from exposing wildlife to much human contact. So, we have much to consider before doing an interview. Mostly, it’s good the immediate neighborhood, and the police know about our work with deer so that if something does happen, we can be contacted.

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  4. That last picture is so elegant
    The interview is an excellent idea. People need to realize feeding the deer so they can enjoy watching them is so dangerous for the deer.
    Last week during mild weather we saw one of NASA’s deer herds grazing – we always worry when there’s one who simply has to leave the safety of the grounds and ends up outside the fence. We never know what to do as it’s a busy 6 lane road bordering the grounds. People stop to take pictures – and the deer get spooked and panics. We call the NASA wildlife person and ask them to open the closest gate, so maybe it will run to safety. ( and the NASA guys get on it quickly) People care, but don’t know what to do. Still in all the years we’ve been here, we’ve never seen a deer hit by traffic there…the “wild” deer in the nature/wetlands preserve aren’t always to lucky – it’s the spring greens along the road or on the other side of the road (and passage to remaining open lands and lake). Wish they could put in a deer underpass or something. The mama’s are pretty smart and hop over to nibble leaving the young ones behind the perseverance fence to fret for a short bit.
    So glad there’s a safe way to the river area – so the deer can learn how to get to the other deer.
    Seeing what you have protected somehow makes the world less annoying and ugly.
    HUGS for all your care, concern and work

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    1. Aw, thank you! We do have concern about the girls venturing off to the north towards the park, so Forrest has spent much of his retirement walking the girls to the west to the river. It’s part of being responsible to help them acclimate to the wild. I believe Forrest is enjoying his role as the mama daddy, and we laugh about it, but these hikes are important.

      I know that our game warden (who I find exceptionally wise about being proactive in helping wildlife) does a lot of talking with children in schools about truly helping wildlife, and not creating ill situations, setting them up for failure. We feel good too, knowing that we are good stewards of the land and in helping wildlife. Sometimes it’s a lot of work and worry, but the gift we receive in return is tremendous. We love what we do.

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  5. Although you don’t describe it, I imagine there was some panic in your chase as they got closer to busy roads. Thank goodness there was the young man to help. Did he have any knowledge of what to do or just reacted in a wise way? Steve’s suggestion is a good one. Not sure you want the notoriety but it would be good for folks to know what you are doing and how to help should the need arise.

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    1. You got that right, Steve… I was absolutely panicked about getting the girls to turn back. Once at that busy road, I feared one or all would be hit by cars. It’s a very busy area of traffic. The young man was actually heading towards the busy road (on foot) but realized my peril while he was videoing Scout and Ruthie, and turned back towards his home (just a block from our house). We still have not spoken to the newspaper people, and are a bit reluctant to do so. While it may help to have others know what we do, it also may draw people to come see the deer or cause even more trouble luring them to fences along 9th street and the alley. The girls are already fascinated by what’s on the other side of the fences! I’m just thankful that the city workers, police, and nearby neighbors are aware of what we do. It all helps.

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      1. For what my opinion is worth. I’d leave things at word of mouth. There are some crazy people out there and the fewer of them that are aware the better. Not to be an alarmist, but we have a park nearby that used to have a deer pen for visitors ala a zoo but just deer. Note I said used to. Some assholes,hope that’s okay, shot them with bows. I don’t know if they thought they could get them out for food or were just sick idiots but there’s no more deer for the kids to view. I personally don’t care for zoos aside from animals that were rehabbed enough to live but not survive on their own, one-legged etc, and prefer wildlife parks that are just for the animals,but at least folks do get to see the animals and possibly develop an appreciation for them. These jerks ruined it for everyone and destroyed the deer in the process. I know that once free to roam your wards are subject to the hunt but while in your care they really don’t stand a chance so I say keep mum about things.

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  6. Having been raised in ‘rural area’ and taught to drive and be aware that wildlife treks or a broken fence can place wildlife or domestic live stock in front of your car on any roadway, education is all one can do – – and I remember the first time, after I transfered to a duty station that was more urban/metro than my first one, for being a dispatcher, the gal who called in wanting a DOW officer (we were after hours for their office) and upon asking what the details were of the reason for needing the dept. of wildlife officer, she said, “Some one needs to come get these little deers – they are crossing the street and not checking for traffic and they will get killed!” and I thought it odd, at the time, she wasn’t concerned about folks driving more than 25mph in her suburban, rather rural, but still, subdivision area that were supposed to follow the 25mpho r less speed limit – and how, she thought that folks who purchased land therefor the feeling of ‘living in the country, with all the amenities of being in town’ close by, why they wouldn’t be on the look out for wildlife crossings, etc. I confess to doing my best, but most likely failing, in telling her, “Ma’am, I hear your concern, but I really need you to know, if our local DOW came out to herd roving deer and antelope back onto some safe pasture, everytime someone was concerned, they would be too busy and understaffedto take care of bears or mountain lions who were being aggressive in the area – thanks for the call, but no one is going to respond.” – That said, I WAS rather surprised it took over 2 weeks, years and years later, when I lived at the edge of a mountain town, that was known, all about as the ‘family area of town’ that was full of families with small children, that my message left stating, “Hey! Heads up – there is a male, mountain lion, of good size, making his way through the back yards and such and I’ve seen him several times in the past few nights/early mornings – usually in my back yard – he doesn’t seem bent on trouble, but might want to let folks be aware of it – for kids and domestic pet safety” – – :D. So we all have our ‘priorities’ or what we think is ‘paramount’ I guess. me included – – :D. LOL

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    1. I sure understand what you’re saying. Our game wardens are overwhelmed mostly with poaching calls. Our county has always had real issues with poachers all year long. We don’t call the game warden for much of anything – he brings us orphans or asks us if we’re willing to take them on. I enjoy visiting with him each June when he comes to sign my rehabilitation papers. I learn a lot from his stories. He’s matter-of-fact, like you were with that caller, about why he won’t intervene.

      We don’t have bears in this part of Oklahoma, but there are some to the east. Mountain lions are not common, but we’re seeing more of their presence in the last decade. I think most states try to downplay the presence of mountain lions so as to not upset people, but I think people do need to be aware, yet not fear them. Education is key.

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  7. I’m glad you have a good relationship with the game warden. It’s been my experience that they’re great resources: understanding, committed, and approachable. I did have to laugh, just a bit. Everyone who’s keeping an eye on the deer remind me of the neighborhood I grew up in as a kid. None of us could get away with a thing, because every adult on the block felt perfectly free to round us up and head us home when we started to run amok. Kids will be kids — even when they’re deer!

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    1. Yes, it is a good thing to know our game warden is one of the good fellas. And our neighbors truly seem to care about the deer. We’ve been fortunate. The front gate is still an issue. Since we keep it closed to keep the deer from roaming into the residential area, deliveries that I cannot track, are often just dumped off at the gate. Our house is more than a football field distance from the gate. When spring arrives and there is more reason for the deer to take off to the woods to find better eats, we can once again open the gate. I guess patience is the key.

      I too remember neighbors like yours growing up. It’s a shame most of us don’t know our neighbors. It never hurt to have extra eyes on the scene, people you knew and trusted to have your back or lend a helping hand when needed.

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  8. Oh dear those deer. That must have been heart stopping to have the deer running around the neighborhood. So much danger. I imagine you learned not to leave the gate open again. Maybe put a sign up for delivery folks to call you when they are at the gate. I put a sign up on my gate but it became tattered in a few years and I have not replaced it but it did work when I was allowing my dogs the run of my one acre. Gates are a necessity when you live back from the street and have more than a regular city lot. The photos are wonderful.

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    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I used to take a lot more pictures of deer, but this extremely cold weather makes it difficult for me to want to get out there. Thankfully this weekend looks like we may get some warmer temps so I can venture out to walk with the girls.

      Our front gate is more than a football field distance from our house. I try to watch for the deer and truly they are not usually around our house or up at the rock house. They’re in the woods most days. We do have a sign to call for package delivery entry. And I’ve told UPS and FedEx to come on through as long as they close the gate behind them. Possibly we have new delivery people and they are just not informed. With Covid, I do a lot of non-perishable online ordering, so we really need to get this problem ironed out!

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  9. Oh wow… as I read I felt rising anxiousness… so many factors to manage… We have a fully fenced yard and gates, and I still worry about the dog getting out or something unwelcome getting in. Other dogs wander the village, as do wallabies and even the chooks… the range of human attitudes run the spectrum. I can only image herding uncooperative deer would be much like the allegorical cats. I tend to overeact, I know, but I felt the urge to dart the animal control officers, just as they did Daisy!

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    1. Ha ha!! Oh Dale, you hit the nail on the head. I think the police officer knew they had done the wrong thing with Daisy, and he tried to apologize and was kind. But the animal control guy was rude and treated me like I was some dingy woman. All I could do was listen and assure him I wasn’t doing anything illegal and he was welcome to contact the game warden. I’ve learned that sometimes with people, it’s best just to let them rant, and that there is no reasoning with them. I’m truly thankful that the young man who helped lead the fawns back home, had the sense to realize my panic, and had the wisdom to know how to help. I hope I see him again and can thank him better than I did in rather frantic tones that day. He has no idea how very much I appreciated his help!

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  10. Hi, I am sure it is reassuring to learn that you have neighbours who are supportive of your rehabilitation work. Your recent posts demonstrate that your deer must learn to navigate the dangers posed by predators as well as human activity. Although it was stressful returning the deer from suburbia to your property, it does not seem anyone deliberately did anything to startle or harm them.

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    1. I got lucky Margaret! That young man seemed to understand I needed help. The people who passed by in cars were simply interested and asking questions. It has helped to hear from neighbors who report when the girls are somewhere not safe for them. We can often quickly reach them and lead them elsewhere. I think as things green up along the river bottom, and the girls become more familiar with other deer and what predators to avoid, they will naturally follow the route of the Washita river. We always hope the deer are more inclined to live in the wild, and not cling to humans.

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