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.
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.
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.
© 2021 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…