Monday, June 7, 2010

Oh, Deer

People sometimes ask me why I wrote a novel that involved deer when I’m not a hunter. Well, I live among lots of deer. LOTS of deer. This is usually wonderful. Except when they munch on my pretty growing things as if they were potato chips. But also, when Mother Nature shows her dark side.

A week ago, on Memorial Day, I discovered a tiny fawn curled up under our back porch. This little creature was adorable. Seriously adorable. Since I know that mommy deer hide their precious bundles in secluded areas until the babies are stronger, I was not concerned. I’ve discovered lots of newborn fawns under our porches, in our gardens, and under trees. Our yard is sort of a deer nursery.

Later on that Monday evening, though, I had a bad feeling. The fawn’s mom had not come to fetch her baby. The little one started on its own wobbling spindle legs toward the woodsy area behind our house—where a herd of deer sleep at night. Part of me was glad the fawn was going into deer territory, but my inner alarm was going off. Where was mom?

The next morning, I was on the lookout for a doe with “our” fawn. But I found no doe and no fawn. Hoping mom and baby had reunited in the woods and all was well (other than mom staying out partying too late), I left to work on my latest novel. Hours later, I returned home to find the fawn curled up in our garage, on the mat in front of the door to the house. Now I knew that the poor baby was in trouble. Upon the advice of my veterinarian, I called Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary for advice. Minutes after this call, I was lifting the fawn into a towel-lined laundry basket. Minutes later, I was driving this little deer to the sanctuary.

For most of the trip, the fawn was flicking its tail and ears and looking around, seemingly and amazingly calm, ever adorable. But two minutes before I pulled into the driveway of the sanctuary, the baby dipped its head down, resting its nose upon the towel it lay on. I was hoping with everything I had that my fawn was only napping. But I knew. Somehow, I just knew that the fawn had passed away quietly.

The wonderful folks at Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary ( ) examined the fawn nonetheless. They told me the deer was a girl about two weeks old despite having the gaunt and spindly look of a newborn. This, along with a faint smell coming off of her, and a few other symptoms, indicated that she was sick. Very sick. Fawns are not supposed to have a scent. And this sickness was probably why, I was told, her mother had left her. This is nature’s way, a kind veterinarian explained to a very sad me. This, I thought, is the dark side of Mother Nature.

For the next few days, I noticed a solitary doe wandering and grazing in our back yard and near the porch where the fawn had been. And I wondered if that was the girl-fawn’s mom. Maybe she had placed her baby near our house in the hope that the fawn would be better protected from predators. Maybe mom didn’t abandon her totally, but was checking on her now and then. Or, maybe the writer in me needed to make up a story with a happier ending.

I was broken-hearted over the loss of the fawn. And at first I thought it ironic that after writing Buck Fever, I should be a part of this situation. But then I thought, not ironic--appropriate.


  1. Yow! I didn't see that coming. You have a great talent for drawing your reader right in. That is SO sad. It is nature, but sad still.

  2. Oh gosh. You sound just like me - I would have done the same thing - and would have bawled my eyes out when the fawn died. I love nature also, but it's sometimes hard to take when things don't go right. Thanks for sharing this story, Cynthia.

  3. Thanks for the nice compliment, Justin. Yes, nature can be so sad.

    Linda, I think we are alike because I did bawl my eyes out. I was so embarrassed, but somehow I became attached. What can I say? : )

  4. How very tender. That little fawn was blessed to have you ... I'm certain she felt the concern and love there when she needed it. She was not alone when she passed and that means a lot.

    We get deer as well, though never fawns in our yard. Last year I actually had to fence them out of our garden so I could get a tomato or two.

  5. How absolutely amazing Cynthia! Truly this is a wonderful, moving and touching story. Wow to be that close to nature and get to see it up close. I agree nature can be so sad, but then there are angels like yourself that care and dare to share. This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. I know that more stories are going to be come from this.

  6. We're in deer country, too. Last spring we watched a doe take her fawn for its first walk into the woods behind our house. It was wonderful to get that glimpse of nature.

    But nature has those downsides, too. I'm glad your fawn wasn't alone.

  7. Tess, I hope you're right that the fawn felt the love. And I laughed when I read about your struggle for a tomato. We've given up on vegetable gardens around here. ; )

    You are so sweet, Vanessa! : ) And you're right about the wow of being so close to nature. Holding that little fawn was amazing. And probably why I became so attached. Such a sweet little baby.

    Oh, Judy, watching a doe and her fawn is definitely one of the highlights of nature. That's wonderful.

    Thanks for your comments, everyone! : )

  8. oh, very gripping story here. I'm glad you left it alone to make sure mom wasn't coming back. In my job, I have to take way too many fawns to the rehab facility because well-meaning hikers "found" them and brought them in. Thanks for putting this out there.
    But too bad for the sad ending!

  9. I don't think a lot of people realize that mother deer leave their newborns alone, in a secluded area, for the first twenty-four hours until the little ones gain some strength. The moms stay close though, and keep watch on their babies from a short distance away. It's so interesting.

  10. Hey Pretty Lady, thanks so much for stopping by! Hope that you had a wonderful weekend. Keep dancing!!! Hugs to you