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The Fawn

One of the many pleasures of life at our country place was the after-supper coffee on the south veranda.  We had a wide unobstructed view of the fields on three sides of the house. Except for some distant fencing and a glimpse of the neighbour’s roof in the distance we could convince ourselves that we were alone in the country. It was a rare evening when there wasn’t some animal activity to watch. We had seen everything over the years from bear to wild turkey. Now that it was mid-July the deer were providing most of the entertainment.

The fawns were about 6 weeks old now and they seemed almost to take real pleasure in speed. Egging each other into a game of tag, they seemed to fly as they circled the lilac bushes at the back of the field, racing up to the fence at road, then back once more to the lilacs. Sometimes the adults would join in. We could imagine they were laughing as they played. Do deer have a sense of humour?

The does watched their little ones closely of course, and would often find them a quiet spot to hide in bush so the mothers could have some time to themselves to graze. This particular evening one of the does had done just that. Her twins were invisible although she knew exactly where they were. Suddenly there was some noisy activity near where she had left them. We could hear a fawn bleating. The doe raced into the bush toward the sound. As we watched, a fawn broke from the bush further down the driveway. The little one stumbled for a moment on the gravel then ran into the field. Immediately behind came the fox, gaining. 

I had often told myself that it was best to let Mother Nature have her way. That thought lasted perhaps a half-second, as I found myself running in my slippers across the stubble of the new-mown field in the direction of the chase. I was wondering as I ran if the fox might fight for its meal. What would it do? Was it rabid?  Realizing that the light breeze was in my face and the fox at least wouldn’t have my scent, I continued toward the sound of a struggle.

The fox had (her?) back to me as I approached. I hadn’t been seen or heard. She had the little one firmly by one ear and was throwing it around.  The fawn was bleeding badly. I was almost standing over them before the fox realized I was there. She seemed to spring a few feet straight up and then vanished into the bush with one bound. The fawn was lying motionless but breathing and watching me. I thought she was probably in shock. I picked her up in my arms and walked back to the house.

Eleanor met me at the veranda stairs with paper towel and rubbing alcohol. She cleaned up the fawn’s ear as well as she could. 

“I know what you’re thinking.” She said, “We can’t keep it “. 

We had recently watched a program about a Quebec couple who had found a fawn on their front porch and had kept it as a pet for some time.

“You’ll have to see if you can take it back to its mother.”

She was right of course. I would have to try to reunite the little family.

I carried the fawn back to where we thought the drama had begun. There was an old wagon road behind the house, probably used for maple sap gathering in the distant past. There was a clearing a few hundred feet down the path. Putting her down on the grass I tried vainly to imitate the fawn’s bleat although I expected the doe had probably been watching me all along. Would my scent on the little one bother her mother?

Thinking it best to get away as quickly as possible I walked backed up the path but I couldn’t resist a last glance back. The fawn was up on her feet now, looking at me, head down, pawing at the ground like a little bull. I’m sure she was thinking “Thanks for the help, but don’t think I owe you anything…”

Some months later, with autumn coming on, we had begun to put out a bit of corn for our regular deer visitors. One afternoon a doe came in with two fawns. Their newborn colour was almost gone and one had a piece of one ear missing although it had healed nicely. They had a good meal and left.

A year or two later at about the same time she returned with fawns of her own. 

We called her “Pansy”.

Gary Winters

Photo: ForestWander, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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