“In the animal kingdom, one of the keys to survival is to outwit your enemies. And when you’re surrounded by carnivores, one of the best strategies is to fade into the background and disappear.” ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson
This is not the first time a doe has chosen our yard as maternity ward and nursery. This particular doe seems to believe our family benevolent enough to give us the gift of nature voyeurism, out in the open from the comfort of our house and yard. She’s wild and keeps her distance, but she seems to know our habits are not a threat to her.
Pregnant doe will separate themselves from the herd when they are ready to give birth. She had gotten rather wide in the middle, and when she chased away her own yearling daughter while in my presence, I had a strong feeling Delivery Day was imminent.
She settled down for the evening under the fig tree out back with the rest of the herd nowhere in sight. This was a first.
Early the next morning, I watched from my porch swing as a lone deer sauntered back to the figs after what must have been an early morning foraging excursion. In the distance, the doe looked unfamiliar, but her facial markings gave her away — it was Siobahn. The loss of girth suggests she’d given birth in the night.
I went and got my field lenses to investigate.
To my delight, a tiny, wobbly fawn stood up from what seemed out of thin air under the same fig tree to greet his mother. A fawn! On my birthday! She saw me, regarded me with a head nod, then proceeded to nurse her newborn with me standing visibly only a few yards away.
Just Nursed, Sean
Gets Cleaned Up
I felt honored as this is something she wouldn’t allow with her own herd for a few more days when he’s stronger.
Privilege, pure an simple.
Daily walks around the property over the first week of his life was a game called ‘Where’s Waldo?’ to see who can spot the fawn first. My kids remembered the children’s books well; it felt familiar. This time, walks were purposeful, slow and respectful, eyes peeled and senses heightened.
The second day of his life, I walked out to find him right there by our back porch, next to the swing where I routinely sit in the morning with a cup of coffee. Only the day before was he accidentally discovered by the rest of the herd when they stumbled upon him through the fig trees. I watched as she chased them off, pawing at them with angry hooves and moving them along. She needed a safer location off the beaten path.
Her solution: put him next to me. For a few days last week, I got to be babysitter-in-charge!
Under My Swing
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Occasionally he would be out in what seemed like plain sight. ‘There’s Waldo!’ the kids would yell from the kitchen window. His bright white spots in the distance giving him away to our searching eyes. To predators, keen on movement to spot prey, he blends in very well and staying perfectly still — and lacking any scent — are his only defense.
At just a week old, he is completely helpless against any attacker. His mother beds down well away from him while still keeping an eye out for potential danger nearby.
By the Creek
When she comes back to nurse, she first makes sure that the coast is clear and safe for him to emerge his hiding place. She calls for him, he stands up and slowly walks over to her for a short drink of milk. Mama cleans him while drinks, careful to remove any trace of urine or feces from his body. She then beds him back down and moves on.
He blends so well that while butterfly watching in the garden one overcast afternoon, Scottie practically tripped over him. He remained true to form, his curled up ball on the leaves would help him not to be noticed by us.
We weren’t fooled. There he is!
In the Path
Next to the Keyhole
But most times, he was difficult to spot, even among the bright greens of the tall turf grass. With the long lens and using trees to separate me from his watchful eyes, I am able to get a photo of his beautiful face without even alerting him to my presence.
Meant To Be Wild