By Betty Gordon
© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.
Among wildlife lovers in my neighborhood, the first two or three weeks of June are highly anticipated. It’s when we compare deer sightings — “Have you seen any fawns yet?” — as we await the arrival of the newborns.
Early Friday afternoon (June 9), the blessed event happened. A tiny newcomer, all huge, dark eyes, flicking ears, wobbly legs and spots galore, came into the world in my backyard. Looking out a kitchen window, I could see Mom avidly licking the youngster.
All week, I had an inkling something was up. I kept seeing the same pregnant doe grazing around the edge of my property. With her heavy belly, it seemed likely that someone might be having a birthday soon.
The deer that live in the woods next to my house are as used to seeing me as I am to seeing them and show little fear of humans in general. They don’t high-tail it to safety at my presence, even when I have my dog on his leash.
I called out softly to her several times: “Hey, pretty girl. It’s OK. Hey, pretty girl.”
At about 10 a.m. Thursday, the doe was standing on the landing of the concrete stairs that lead to my front door. Her furry tan back was to me, but I could see she was calmly chewing her cud and looking out toward the cul-de-sac at the end of my street.
I don’t think she’d just had a nibble from the azalea bush directly to her right because it’s not at its healthiest at the moment. But she may have earlier been sampling the ground cover around the tall oak tree to her left, a favorite dining spot for the herd.
My record for most deer seen at the same time: 19. I regularly observe what I take to be family groups of five or six. When they come running up the street — or out of the woods going in the other direction — it’s a sight to behold. Sometimes they are in leisurely fast-walking mode and at other times, it’s all hooves-pounding-the pavement, run-as-fast-as-you-can speed.
If they are exiting the woods, their usual route has them skirt the edge of a neighbor’s side lawn. They’ve done this so often that they’ve worn a path through the grass.
I’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of photos over every season. In addition to the fawns being delivered now, the young bucks are sporting fuzzy antlers. I haven’t seen the bigger bucks for awhile, but I’m sure they’re somewhere roaming the immediate vicinity or the subdivisions that back up to mine.
Thursday morning, I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures through the front window, intentionally not opening the front door, the noise of which might have caused her to bolt.
Thursday night I was working on a future blog post until the small hours. When I took my black Lab-mix canine outside before we went to sleep, I noted the silhouette of a doe by the flower bed in front of my next-door neighbor’s house.
I couldn’t tell if she was sitting on the dirt in the flower bed or on the lawn just beside it and the short walkway to their front door, but it was an odd place for her to be. Most of the time, when the deer are resting or sleeping, they camp inside the tree line where plenty of plants and bushes provide camouflage … and food.
When I got up Friday morning, I looked around the front of my property, and around my neighbor’s. No signs of a baby. Then I looked out back. Mom was all alone, but her plus-one arrived within hours.
When the new mom was finished tenderly administering to her baby, she headed toward the side woods, leaving the fawn alone but well-hidden.
From my deck, I took several photos, but then went outside at ground level to get a closer look at the fawn. It was standing behind some shrubs, weeds and branches near the perimeter fence.
I was probably about 15-20 feet away. I don’t know how good a newborn’s eyesight is, but I’m sure the fawn knew I was there. Even if it was only sensing a form larger than itself was nearby, it remained absolutely still. It didn’t scoot. It didn’t cry out.
Meanwhile, Mom had spotted me. We kept our distance. I didn’t want to spook either her or her wee one. Mom walked back into the woods and the fawn, a little steadier on its spindly legs, headed in the same direction.
Last spring, one of the newborns made its debut on the next street over. Its mom had left it on the pavement, wedged between two tall heavy-duty plastic garbage bins.
I was walking my dog when I saw the fawn. Once we got home, I got my camera and headed back. By the time I got there, it was gone. Neighbors reported it retreated into the backyard across from them.
Three Junes ago, I was luckier.
My neighbor two doors down called me early on a Saturday morning. She was slightly panicked that the fawn in her front flower bed wasn’t breathing.
With smartphone in hand, I approached the little animal and was mighty relieved to note the easy rise and fall of its ribcage. I was literally within inches of this pint-size body, and snapped some excellent photos.
I named this cutie “Flower.” I didn’t know where Mom was, but I monitored how Flower was doing several times throughout the day.
On the last check, late in the afternoon, Flower was gone — but not too far. She was standing in my neighbor’s side yard, feeding hungrily from mom.
I know that in many communities, the deer overpopulation is not only a nuisance but a real problem, especially because they can carry disease-bearing ticks.
In my own yard, I’ve stopped planting flowers because for too many years, the deer have consumed them. This was the final straw: I left for work one morning, excited about all my tulip buds and looking forward to one of my favorite sights of spring in the coming days.
By the time I got home, every single bud had been bitten off and the stalks reduced in height.
Even so, I still delight every time I see these gentle, graceful creatures. I’ve named the new arrival Friday.
Only one question remains: Is Friday a singleton or is there a twin out there I have yet to discover?