Showing a Little Interest

This past week, Ruthie deer began showing a little more interest in venturing outside of her straw-lined room in the barn, especially in the early mornings and just before dark. Her sisters often gather just outside the deer pen as if to check on Ruthie and keep her company from the other side of the fence. All four deer are behaving much as they did before Ruthie’s snake bite tragedy, still gathering as a herd, and keeping close to home.

During the heat of the day, Gracie, Penelope, and Scout all venture off into the shade of the woods behind our home. For the most part, the three of them have been keeping close to their home territory. Part of this is due to a couple of mother does from the local wild herd keeping the girls hoofed out of their nearby nursery areas. Too young to stand their ground as dominant does, the girls keep safe nearby and graze on what is available here and at the neighbor’s place next door. Fortunately, with Ruthie – the little herd’s “Travel Coordinator and Head of Adventure Planning” – in the infirmary, roaming the neighborhood has come to a standstill as well. On that note, Forrest and I have been able to relax a bit, knowing the girls are not getting into trouble in town.

Gracie keeps Ruthie company from the other side of the deer pen.

One morning this week, I noticed Ruthie resting under the shade of the old splash pond stock tank we had fashioned for the fawns last year. After we released the fawns and cleaned up the deer pen, Forrest and I leaned the stock tank against the fence for the winter, and I was surprised to see Ruthie finding shelter underneath it. So, just like I had done for the fawns we raised other years, I got busy gathering ample tree limbs to construct a shade hut for Ruthie. Forrest and I had barely started construction, when Ruthie moved from under the plastic splash pond to the breezier and cooler shade of the new leaf hut. We continued constructing the shade hut around Ruthie, who seemed just fine resting there while we worked in the heat and humidity.

Ruthie found a shaded, safe-spot under the old splash pond.
When the fawns were little, I built two shade huts for them to hide in and take shelter from the heat of the afternoon sun. To me, this mimicks the canopy of shade they might find deep in the woodlands.
Ruthie enjoys her new shade hut and, if you look closely on the other side of the mesh fencing, Gracie keeps her sister company while enjoying the shade from the other side of the hut (her form shows on the opposite side of the fence just above Ruthie’s head).

In the last couple of days, we have observed Ruthie eating greens on her own in the deer pen. This is the first she has been interested in anything much other than a few species of tree leaves and store-bought fruits and lettuces we have offered. She also enjoys fresh carrots and sweet potato vine from our garden and nibbles wild greens I fetch from our neighbor Steve’s front yard. Still weak and enjoying the comfort of the barn most days, she lays in front of her feed pan to nibble at her leisure. She has also learned to tilt her head to the side to get good drinks of water by submerging the damaged part of her mouth below the water level, allowing her to gain some suction while she drinks. To encourage her to stay hydrated, we keep her water buckets filled with fresh, cool water throughout the day. The water also helps in the healing process, keeping her wounds clean and helping to slough off dead tissue. Ruthie’s mouth is healing nicely, and her tongue no longer hangs out of the right side. She’s also learning to manipulate her tongue to do a better job of keeping food in her mouth and moving it back to her molars for chewing.

I venture to the orchard property most days to fetch wild eats for Ruthie. It takes time to gather all that she might eat. Of course the mosquitoes are horrible right now and our humidity is off the charts! It’s a misery being out there!
The slough offers a diverse selection of edibles for deer and has become a real attraction for water fowl this year.
I spend a lot of mornings clipping what I call wild lettuce, and various other plants for Ruthie to eat. I am thankful our neighbor is very deer-conscious and doesn’t mind us foraging for the deer.

Ruthie is still quite emaciated, and it appears any nutrition she takes in is going straight to the to the baby(ies). But the good thing is, she is eating more forage in the deer pen and is enjoying spending more time outdoors. She has begun grooming herself frequently as deer do, and is resting well. She is also letting us know she doesn’t need our constant attention. We take her independence as a sign that she’s improving, and that our collective prayers are being answered. Thank you all so much for playing a part in Ruthie’s recovery with all your positive thoughts and prayers!

With her mouth healing nicely, Ruthie is now able to nip leaves from tree branches using her upper lip and lower front teeth as deer normally do. Deer do not have upper teeth in the front of their mouths, so their lips and tongue work together to move a leaf into the perfect position to be “gripped and ripped” from the branch. For tougher bites, deer will maneuver a leaf or frond of leaves back to their molars where they can bite them loose from the tree or shrub.
Here, Ruthie finds fresh dirt to eat. All mammals ingest dirt to help with digestion. This is a good sign that Ruthie is instinctually listening to what her body requires.
Ruthie still spends a lot of time in her “nest” in the barn. She generally plops down where she can eat deer feed while she’s resting. Clever girl!

© 2021 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way


44 thoughts on “Showing a Little Interest

    1. It’s a relief to us too! We are still offering all sorts of eats and fresh water, but now she seems to want to graze and hydrate on her own. This is a very good sign. And that baby bump just gets bigger all of the time. We are now wondering if she’ll deliver twins.

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    1. We’re very happy to see Ruthie taking interest in eating and getting out in the pen some. I saw her yawn yesterday and noted that her mouth didn’t open as wide as it should. I imagine she’s still very sore while her mouth continues to heal. Yes, I’m thankful for all of my teeth too! Ha ha!

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  1. Very glad to read that Ruthie continues to recover. You and Forrest are so smart and dedicated to the task, too. I love the leafy covered area you’ve made for Ruthie. I laughed when you said you didn’t have to worry as much that the ‘girls are getting into trouble in town’. Sounds just like raising teenage girls!! Best wishes and loving thoughts.

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    1. Ruthie was always the fearless leader – jumping the fence to town first. I have to admit, it’s been a lot less stressful not getting phone calls from neighbors and police about the girls venturing into town! I know Gracie, Scout and Penelope miss Ruthie. They come to the pen early mornings and in the evenings to sniff through the fencing. Generally, I can find all three bedded down not far from the deer pen at night.

      I feel the loving thoughts… thank you so much for continuing to offer us support from so far away!

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  2. Good to see Runyhie’s progress and a glimpse of your lush surrounds. But ugghhh… I 👏 the lament of your humidity and mosquitos. I love the chilliness of winter less and less but do not love those two accoutrements of summer at all.

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    1. I guess if I had to choose, I’d pick humidity over those horrible mosquitoes! I have so many bites on me now that I’m very miserable with scratching. They bother the deer too and likely all mammals. When things begin to dry up some, we will see less of them. I’m never ready for the drought conditions we eventually get in summer, but not having to deal with so many biting insects will be nice.

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      1. In the last two days I have become aware of a wombat, a native Australian animal, that frequents our property suffering severe manage which can fatal. I have seen this condition in other wild wombats but not one this close to home. I have been doing some research to see if I can do anything to help. Not an easy task. Will keep you posted.

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  3. I am so happy to read that Ruthie ‘s healing process is making great strides. You and Forrest have gone above and beyond to ensure that she has every possible chance of making a very good recovery. She is a smart deer and knows that she is sick. You guys have really proven to be smart rehabbers and have put in the time and the work to provide the best food and care . I commend you for all that you do for Ruthie and the other does. I suppose it will take some time for her to gain back the lost weight. I am wondering if it would be best to keep her contained so that when it is time to deliver her fawn/s she will not be in jeopardy because she is not in the best physical condition. Does a doe sometimes suffer the same electrolyte (calcium I think it is?) loss as cows sometimes do after giving birth? That is just a mere thought.

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    1. I would imagine that does might very well suffer from calcium loss after birthing. Ruthie is getting decent nutrition right now as her coat has made a great turnaround from dull and loss of hair, to a shiny, bright red coat of summer. She’s also self-grooming a lot which deer normally do all day long. We continue to offer her supplemental greens and feed. We will see how she does after she delivers her baby(ies). She is penned for now, too weak to fend off an attack of some kind. We will see how things progress in the coming days. I’m not sure how much longer she has before delivering – that belly is really increasing!

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  4. Ruthie maybe emaciate, but somehow there’s a sheen or glow to her coat in these images. What a determined – by instinct – mama ( or did she learn it all from you and Forrest? HAHA). Very encouraging. She is smart to figure out adaptations. (You have to wonder if most deer are smart but we rarely get to witness the intelligence…as they are smart enough to be deer and avoid humans)
    Hope Ruthie decides to stay close to help and her “herd” as she is weaker than normal and there are coyotes..fewer nows due to your intruder (weird, that may benefit Ruthie and the others…funny how things happen. We knows little about the bigger picture?), but always a tough season for does.
    It’s close to 100 here these days, the ground is cracking, – with humidity like there – with the Sahara7 dust cloud arriving (Oh, ok, it’s organic natural soil nutrition..so best not to complain…we have so little understanding of so much. Best to save all the pieces, right?) No doubt the sloughs are miserable – but you get the natural summer sounds as you forage ( and become dinner for the mosquitoes. UGH)
    Cheers for you guys and yea for Ruthie, Hang in there

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    1. We thought Ruthie’s coat looked better too! and her mouth continues to heal. No tongue poking out anymore and she’s much better at grasping leaves/grasses and ripping. She’s up in the evenings to graze and eat, and then of course I see her up and moving around in the mornings – a more normal routine to her days. And except for a rattle from head congestion (those abscesses are still popping up and draining) she’s looking stronger and behaving more like a deer.

      We have seen a couple of young coyotes on game cameras, not far from here. The coyotes the trespasser killed probably didn’t make much of a dent, but I’m still thankful he took a few out. It’s hard to know how many fawns are out there this year, because the orchard property is so wild. Lots of cover for babies and mamas. That ice storm has helped us see a return of small mammals… and taking out some of the coyotes may give the area small mammals a chance to populate again.

      So far, the slough and old river channel are still flourishing and we have ample water for a while. We are in a drought zone, but so far this summer hasn’t been too dry… thus the mosquitoes!! ha ha!

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      1. Swatting here, too.
        But the state wildlife vet is totally awed by you guys!
        We only see there NASA deer herd through the fences very early or late. Wild brush is useful and has a beauty all its’ own.
        HUGS and salutes to all

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  5. Lori, I have been following along with your updates on Ruthie, but the horror of the situation left me with no words. Tears mostly. I’m glad that so many have been praying for her healing! Surely your dedication, knowledge and determination were just what was needed. With this post I am encouraged for her, her baby(ies) as well as you & FD!
    Thanks to both of you for being there for her. ❤

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    1. Hello, Lynda!! This whole scenario with Ruthie has kept us on our toes. We have just had to observe her and do our best to help her along. We are learning so much about her self-care and instinct. Neither of the vets we’ve contacted could really help us much. The Wildcare vet has been encouraging to us and is fascinated with the progress Ruthie has made. We are also thankful to our local ag store for making suggestions about supplementation, and the local vet for prescribing an antibiotic early on. For now, we’re appreciative that people are thinking of and praying for Ruthie.

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  6. Wonderful news! I’m so glad she is getting stronger! Thank you so much for the up date… I think of you all often

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  7. Thank you for the continued update on Ruthie’s progress. It is so heartening to read of her improvement.The two of you do wonderful work caring for your fawns and helping them on to a healthy life on their own.

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    1. Thanks, Steve. You are right about helping all wild critters to go on to the lives they were meant to live. I’ll be very happy when the day arrives that Ruthie can be released.

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  8. Hi Lori. Sounds like you two have been really busy. So glad Ruthie is improving. I’m finally doing better from the COVID-19. I’ve been sick for seven months. I guess I missed the tale about Ruthie and the snake. Prayers for the whole family, human and critters.

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    1. Hello, Mamie! Thank you for the prayers! It sounds like you could use some prayer too! I’m glad to hear you are doing better. I think for some people the road to Covid recovery was long and perhaps left a permanent mark on their health.

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