The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Our Mysterious White-tailed Visitor
by Ro Wauer

Betty saw it first, and she called me to the kitchen window from where we could see the tiny fawn that was lying in the shade of one of the backyard planters. It was almost impossible to believe that the mother white-tailed deer had left her fawn so very close to the house, about 40 feet from our kitchen window. We immediately grabbed our cameras and began to photograph our tiny visitor. At first it had its head turned away, tucked alongside its body, and the only sign of life was an occasional ear flick. Through binoculars we could see that it was dry; it apparently had been cared for by its mother.

About 30 minutes after our first discovery it raised its head and turned in our direction. More photos! It seemed to be gaining strength, moving about a little and even nibbling at its side. And in another 20 minutes or so it began to stand. It took another few minutes to stand fully upright; it looked like a little spotted body on amazingly long legs. It seemed to teeter a bit, and then take a few steps. It may have seen our movement inside the house because it slowly walked away around the side of the planter and out of sight.

We finally walked outside, trying to follow it and to position ourselves so that we could take some additional photos. We high hope that its mother would suddenly appear and guide it away from our yard and into the brushy area beyond. But instead, it walked only another 100 feet and again laid down in the shade of another planter box. It stayed there for another half-hour or so, even when I walked to within a few feet while watering. Eventually we again approached it to get some close-up photos. But that was more than it could put up with, for it suddenly jumped up and ran at full speed away and out of our yard toward the brushy area beyond.

The entire episode left us with numerous questions. Where was the mother during all of this? Why had she left her baby in our yard so near the house? And why had she not made some effort to return or coax it away?

We first found the fawn right after returning from our morning walk, at about 10am. Had we frightened the mother away when we left or returned to the house? We did not approach the fawn at all during the first period. We did watch to make sure some predator stayed away. The most likely predator would be a large dog that might wander into our backyard for a drink at one of the birdbaths. Yet we also understood that fawns do not have a scent to attract predators. And we understood that mother deer regularly leave their young in a safe place for considerable time. We wondered if she had a second fawn elsewhere, and was not concerned about the safety of our mysterious baby. Did she consider our yard safe?

I know that we will never fully understand what we experienced, but that is all part of Mother Nature’s mystic. We only wish the best for our little fawn. We hope that it found its mother and that she was able to feed and care for it, and that she will nurse it to a healthy youngster. Maybe we will see it again when it returns to enjoy one of our birdbaths.

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