We humans are a compassionate bunch. Our compassion and feelings are one of the things which set us apart from other living creatures. However, our compassion doesn’t fit neatly into the grand scheme of Mother Nature. I’ve mulled all of this over this week after a fawn deer showed up in our neighborhood.
The spotted creature was first noticed last weekend in a neighbor’s yard. Our housing development is a single street cul-de-sac which is surrounded by woods. The young white tail caused quite a stir on the street. Several of the neighbors came knocking on my door, knowing I have at least some knowledge of wildlife and wondered what they could to to help the critter.
I told them, do nothing. Leave it alone. Some of the ladies in the neighborhood were horrified by my seemingly uncaring attitude toward an innocent, unblemished, and delicate creature. Problem is, this isn’t a human baby, this is a wild animal. Some of the same neighbors knocked on the door several years ago when they spotted a black snake in the yard. My response was the same, leave it alone. They were horrified I didn’t immediately arm up and end that violent threat to the sanctity of suburbia with a blast from both barrels of a 12 gauge shotgun. However we’re best to observe it from a distance and be grateful for the experience. There’s nothing else we can or should do.
Both the snake and the deer are wild critters. We built our houses in their living room. The same scenarios would be unfolding whether we are there or not. It’s just when it happens in the backyard it’s on full display and the compassionate side (or violent side in the case of the snake) is automatically triggered.
The fact is a young fawn has no scent. A doe will often leave her young in a hidden spot. They’ll return periodically to nurse them and feed them. However when they are with their offspring they risk alerting predators to the presence of the fawn. What many people, including my neighbors, consider “abandonment” is actually “good parenting” by the doe. She’s following her natural instinct.
Occasionally you’ll find those fawns hidden in the high grass of a hayfield on the edge of the woods. Farmers often kill the fawn with a mowing machine unless they spot it before the machinery rolls through. The recommended action there is to pick up the fawn, move it out of the way, and leave it alone.
But inquisitive children and even some inquisitive adults can’t do that on my street. I can’t blame them. It’s a rare treat to see a young fawn up close. Some have surely been petting it, while others can resist selfies. The young deer has become a cause celeb on our street. But the thing has now lost all fear of humans. My son opened the garage door this week and went to get his car. He returned 30 seconds later and the fawn had walked into my garage and laid down. He picked it up and carried it back outside and ran it off, but I’m certain it didn’t go far. Later in the day it was back in another neighbor’s yard.
In the rare case of abandonment other does will adopt an orphan. Gene Thorne, a former wildlife manger at the R.D. Bailey Wildlife Management Area in Wyoming County once told me he often would have folks show up at his residence on the WMA with a fawn they thought was “abandoned.” Once they brought it to him it surely was, so he would turn it loose into a field where other deer could be seen grazing and it would usually take up with another doe and be fine.
Sadly, I don’t think our neighborhood fawn stands much of a chance unless the doe reappears soon and gets it out of there. Even then, it may be too late. With so much human contact the young deer probably isn’t long for the world. It doesn’t realize the danger which lurks all around. Chances are a hungry coyote will make a meal out of it or it will walk right out in front of a car. If the fawn somehow makes it to fall, he or she will have no reservation about walking well within bow range of a tree stand and presenting a perfect broadside shot. Heck, it will probably stand perfectly still thinking that human odor means somebody wants to rub its neck or take a picture.
There’s nothing wrong with having a soft spot in your heart for an animal. But it’s important to realize in many cases, you may be killing it with “kindness.”