Mon 5 May 2008
Blacktail deer forage around my cabin on a daily basis, and I’ve often posted photos of them. But apropos May Day, I had a new experience last Thursday with my cloven-hoofed neighbors.
A doe brought this spring’s offspring into my field. They were the first fawns I’d seen this year, and they ultimately provided me with an opportunity to photograph a one- to two-week-old fawn at close range.
As it happened, I’d gone out on my deck to take in the afternoon when I spotted a doe grazing just below me. Soon it nosed around in some tall grass, and up jumped two fawns.
The fawns followed their mother through the grass to my driveway, where she surveyed the surroundings before leading them into the open.
Continuing to photograph them, I followed the three until I caught their attention, and the doe with one fawn (seen here) ran off.
The other fawn, however, may have been to tired to stay with them. It simply wandered into tall grass, which happened to be next to my driveway. As can be seen in the photo above, the grass was far taller than the tiny fawn walking through it.
The fawn might have been expected to seek out a secluded spot in which to rest and not be seen, but this one lay down only a couple of feet off the edge of my driveway not far from where I was standing.
As is evident in the photo above, the fawn was well camouflaged by its spots, and even when I walked up to it, the fawn remained motionless. “It probably thought it was invisible,” Point Reyes Station biologist Jules Evens told me with a laugh Monday. When I walked away from the fawn without touching it, that impression was probably confirmed.
The fawn was so well hidden, in fact, the only way I could get a clear photo of it was by shooting directly down with the grass slightly parted. Even then, the fawn remained absolutely still.
I quickly departed, and for more than half an hour after I left, the fawn lay curled up beside my driveway before its mother returned and led it away.
If a fawn is continually stressed, Susan Sasso of Olema told me, it needs its mother’s licking, as well as her milk, when she returns, for both calm the young creature. Susan, who rehabilitates sick, injured, and orphaned fawns for Wildcare, noted that fawns can die of excessive stress.
At facilities on her property, Susan at present is feeding four very young wards every four hours seven days a week. This exhausting schedule will slow down in a few weeks, but the fawns will be in her care until sometime in August. She does it every year.
Here Susan (at left) and another Wildcare volunteer, Cindy Dicke of Olema, prepare to release a fawn in Chileno Valley.
It was one of six that in 2006 grew up on Susan’s property and then were trucked to Mike and Sally Gale’s ranch for release. The fawns were sedated for the trip but quickly revived once they had received wake-up injections.
Blacktail deer in West Marin are just beginning their fawning season, Susan noted. In total, she has received five fawns, but one, which arrived in bad shape, soon died. The other four, however, are healthy and putting on weight, Susan said.
Wildcare, for which Susan volunteers, ended up with these fawns for a variety of reasons. One was orphaned when its mother died in childbirth; another became separated from its mother after getting caught in a culvert; construction workers separated two from their mother…
“When the fawns are one to two weeks old,” Susan noted, “the mothers leave their babies for a while and graze until their udders are full.” So if you too find a fawn by itself, Susan said, “don’t bother it.” In all likelihood, its mother has simply left for a few minutes to pick up some milk and will be back shortly.