Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Doe and Fawn

 The herd of five deer trotted into the woods behind, jumping lithely over the stream, walking into the yet leafless tree stand. I watched as one, slightly more ungainly than the others dipped her head to sip from the clear waters. The spring had its source somewhere close by, so it must have been cleaner than water further downstream.

A few weeks later, and the brown trunks were all covered with vivid green leaves, as a heat wave took over the final days of spring. Gone were the pitiful lines of thin young trees, now replaced by a dazzling array of greens. The stream was barely visible under the shrubs and the ugliness of the gravel piles and black landscape fabric (leftovers from when the developer remolded the area for construction) was mostly hidden by the freshly regrown shrubs - rye grass, crown vetch, birdsfoot deervetch, cowvetch...Their names roll off the tongue like an incantation of witches, warding off the dry brown of the glyphosated slopes on another property line backing up to a neighbor's lawn.

In all of that, a splash of a healthy brown with golden undertones. Dark eyes and black nose nudging at the multiflora rose bushes at water's edge.The ungainly doe was back, sipping on the clear water of the stream. She showed up religiously, every afternoon, munching on her snack, with one ear cocked up for any trouble.

Late one morning, a rustling of brown in the trees to the left of the screen door. More golden brown flashes in the bushes. I hunted for the binoculars to take a closer look, and lo and behold- a pair of tiny fawns nursing next to the doe. One stood up on ungainly legs, while the doe licked the other one all over. The babies were born!

Much excitement over the next few days as the doe came back every few hours to nurse the fawns. We would grab the binoculars to try and catch a glimpse of the babies, but never succeeded in seeing both of them together after that first glimpse.

The next time I looked, the deer had just a single fawn in that location, leaving me wondering what happened to the other fawn. As it turns out, does often split the pairs, it is a tactic that allows at least one fawn to survive if there are predators nearby. While black bears may have retreated to more mountainous parts, and wolves are long gone, we have seen the occasional coyote in the vicinity, so no doubt those form the primary predator that preys on young fawns.

Several weeks have now passed, and the deer can be seen every day with one of her fawns in tow, leaping around the bushes, near the neighborhood retention pond, trotting across the lawns. The other day, I came upon her as I went for a morning walk. She looked me in the eye and stomped, warning me off. I quietly crossed to the other side of the road, best not to offend a mother trying to protect her young ones. Mother deer are as much to be feared as mother bears!

 Update: A few weeks after the separation, the twin fawns are now large enough to be reunited. So we have been treated to watching the siblings playing with each other near the stream, while the mother watches over them, while grazing on shrubs nearby.