By Betty Gordon
© 2019 text and photos. All rights reserved.
For previous posts about fawns born in my backyard, see June 10 and July 1, 2017, and July 7, 2018.
The nursery in my backyard, welcoming newborn fawns for the third consecutive year, has expanded to my front doorstep. Literally.
On Saturday morning (June 22), I was preparing to take my dog Simon for a walk as usual. He was on my left at the front door, and pulling on his leash as he always does. So my vision was obscured to our immediate left as we stepped outside.
He vocalized a little yip, as the pulling increased.
I heard a louder, higher-pitched yelp in return.
There, on the front landing, settled in the corner between the wall and a rust-colored plastic planter filled with dirt — busy-beaver chipmunks and various other critters keep eating my flowers — was a tiny fawn.
Its rear legs were splayed in figure “S” formation, the split black hooves pointing backward. The left front leg was fully extended parallel to the wall, but the right front limb was folded under its body.
Breathing gently, it was resting on its stomach. Its ears were up and alert, the nose was partially hidden by the planter.
“Oh, wow,” I said to myself almost in a whisper, thrilled to see the fawn so close. But I knew that I had to distract Simon, who wanted to do what dogs do: Investigate. (Fawns give off very little scent, having been licked clean their mom.)
And we would have to get back up the steps without disturbing the fawn — and quickly — so I could take photos before it decided it had had enough of this frightening intrusion and scampered away.
Simon, my black Lab-mix who thinks he’s the alpha dog around here, was cooperative. He did his business — he’d get his customary long walk later — and I put him back in the house.
I grabbed my smart phone and my camera, opened the door slowly and stepped back outside.
The fawn looked to be several hours old. Only the fur on its tummy seemed damp. I went down the stairs and stood on my lawn facing the house so that I could get a better look at its face and its big innocent eyes, just barely visible between the wall and the planter.
This prone-body position was different than all the fawns I’ve found in my backyard in previous years. They’ve generally been curled into themselves to some degree: nose to tail, with their legs wrapped tightly under their body.
I’ve name this fawn Ellie. I have no idea if it’s a boy or girl; I couldn’t get a good enough look to see if its head had the two round spots where antlers will grow.
I alerted my neighbors, and one by one, they quietly crept up the stairs and had their own moments of joy peering at the little visitor, taking photos also.
I planted new gardenia bushes this spring, and augmented the pine straw around the existing shrubs. I’ve often thought this would be a perfect spot for a doe to conceal a newborn.
This is the third fawn of the season at my house. On June 7, several adult deer were in the backyard in the late afternoon, and when I went on my deck to watch, I saw a fawn in the corner grassy-weedy area. I have photos of the fawn I named Friday from two years ago in this exact spot. (See my post of June 9, 2017.)
The adults ran off to the woods, with the baby in hot pursuit, and I wasn’t fast enough to get a photo.
My next-door neighbor, whose deck also affords a view of my backyard, told me that she saw a doe licking a newborn on June 21 in this spot. I missed it completely.
Last Saturday, I sat on my inside stairs watching Ellie through the window, wondering how long it would stay. I was happy that it was completely under the overhang and would be shielded if it rained later.
Alas, though it probably had been resting there several hours — most does give birth early in the morning — I was only aware of Ellie’s presence for less than 90 minutes.
I heard some scraping, its hooves against the plastic, and saw it wobble to its feet.
Then Ellie eyed the stairs. “Hmmm, how do I negotiate these?” it might have been thinking.
Not so well, as it turned out. Ellie tumbled off the landing onto the pine straw, between a gardenia bush and a pointy-leafed holly bush.
Seemingly unfazed, Ellie stood up and darted across my lawn into the woods. I followed but lost track of the spotted speedster.
About 3:30 in the afternoon, I was working on this post and was in what I call my “deer-watching position,” from where I can see out the front windows and track the animals as they come out of the woods, and often graze on anything that takes their fancy.
They eat my flowers and my ground cover, and balance themselves up on their back legs so they can nibble leaves off the trees — and then do similar damage in my neighbors’ yards.
Into view came a doe … and then two fawns. Does Ellie have a sibling?
I thought so for a few minutes, until I decided that the twins looked too big for Ellie to be one of them. I’d heard that the previous week twins were born in a neighbor’s yard, a street over from mine, so these were probably those animals.
Grabbing my camera again, I got off a few shots before the trio pranced across my driveway and down the street.
About an hour later, I caught sight of a doe with a patch of fur missing on her left front shoulder. Trailing was a tiny fawn. This was probably Ellie.
On Monday, another newborn was in my neighbors’ backyard, in the corner that abuts mine. Its mom had jumped the fence in one effortless bound and left the baby in a grassy area. My neighbors opened their front gate so the doe would have easier access when she returned.
By my count, this fawn was the seventh I’ve seen this year. I try to take note of differing characteristics such as the color of their coats — from creamy caramel to milk-chocolatey brown — or whether the rims of their ears are outlined in black or tan.
Does often give birth in one spot and then move their young to a safer place. Sometimes twins are within eyesight of each other, like Sunday and Sammy, born in my backyard last year. (See post of July 1, 2017.)
But my doorstep isn’t what I would call particularly well-hidden.
There was no blood on the concrete and no sign of afterbirth, so the delivery room was likely elsewhere, possibly my neighbor’s yard two doors down. The person who lives in the lower level reported looking out the window in the morning and seeing two large eyes returning his gaze.
The question remains: How did the fawn get up the stairs? (Fawns can walk within 20 minutes of birth, albeit unsteadily.) Was it secluded elsewhere, lying perfectly still, its spots providing camouflage in the woods?
Did something spook it, and in its confusion and disorientation simply dart up the stairs and hide behind the first thing it saw?
Or did the doe nudge it with her nose to get the baby to go where she wanted?
Whatever the method, it’s possible the doe was at one point standing in front of the door, which means that she could have inadvertently rung the bell.
Our welcome mat says “Wipe your paws” and has two paw prints above and below that suggestion.
Maybe it should also say “Wipe your hooves!”?