a close encounter
Returning from my early morning walk today, I cut through the woods behind my home. This is by-pass, thoroughfare and otherwise recreation area for our local herd of deer. So human and woodland creatures often encounter each other here. We eye one another for a few seconds, each determining the other means no harm, and continue on our respective ways.
This morning, however, something new occurred. As I emerged from the wooded area onto my recovering back yard (it has a fuzz of ground cover on it this year - recovering from the abuse of construction and heavy equipment and then mounds of leaf litter burying it for a few years), I found myself being greeted by the two smallest, most adorable, undoubtedly relatively new-born fawns I have ever seen. These two tiny creatures came no higher than my knees. Their legs were still wobbly, their spots large and prominent. While that was a delightful discovery, I somewhat quickly was horrified to realize that I could not see any adult deer around. I imagined they had to be there - these little things couldn't survive long without them. But I couldn't see them (hurray for camouflage and the cover of scrub). Clearly, while I was there, they were going to pretend they weren't. Except for these innocent playful babies.
I determined to hurry home, to let the adults come out of hiding and reclaim their endangered children. Alas, since I was the only big animal they could see, and the babies were so very young and inexperienced, they began to follow me home! One seemed to catch on after just a few steps, and amidst my imploring, turned to go back into the woods. The other, sadly, continued to imagine that I was family and the leader of the herd. Gently, without wanting to scare the little one, I argued, pointed, explained, that I was not its mother. To no avail. This little one clearly would not understand me! (Who was being more obtuse in this scenario I leave for you to decide!)
This soon became all too much for the little guy. It was quite exhausted at being rebuffed and apparently was becoming anxious at not having a loving mom to cuddle it and nurse it. Its legs began to wobble and give way. So right at the edge of my garage, it decided to make its last stand, or last lie, and plopped down. It was so very petite, bones and breathing quite evident.
Alarmed that still no parent showed up, and that this little one was in distress, I ran inside and with the help of my son, brought out two tins, one of milk and one of water. We didn't know which would be better; and we didn't even know if this baby could even drink from anything that a mother's breast. (Any advice about what to do if this happens again is most welcome!)
Sadly, it appeared even too weak to lift its head.
At this point, I had to take my son to school. And as we were getting into the car, we saw the whole herd bounding away across the street, away from the little baby we too were now leaving behind. It wasn't clear to us that this deer would even survive till I returned, it looked so distressed and weak and alone. We drove away with a sense of loss and doom.
I am happy to report however, that upon my return, not 20 minutes later, the baby deer was no longer prostrate alongside the corner of my garage. In fact, it was no longer in sight. My hope is that its mother retraced her steps, followed the scent and rescued this pitiful, lost but beautiful and trusting animal. Although we do have foxes in our neighborhood too.