Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day for a deer

A couple of mornings ago, I caught an interloper in my back yard. I knew who she was. I had seen her before and could easily identify her by the two notches in her right ear.

Last July I wrote about this deer, who rested in our yard for a couple of mornings while her twin fawns napped in the weeds of the adjacent vacant lot. I've seen deer around town fairly often since then, but never have I been sure that I saw this particular doe and her fawns, though I've often wondered how they fared during the winter.

I knew that some deer were jumping our fence to eat last year's crabapples. All the wildlife, deer, squirrels, and birds alike, love to eat the little, soft, dried-up, fallen fruits. They've eaten almost all of them, mostly during the night or in our absence, leaving their droppings as evidence of their visits.

There are a few crabapples left to tempt a deer. Also tempted were the deer on the outside of the fence. There were three others in the vacant lot next door. One of them, a fairly large doe, was peacefully munching weeds. The other two smaller does were pacing around our fenceline. I could clearly see the segmented motion of two deer shapes through the cracks between our old fence boards. Watching the brief flashes of their shadows as they walked around, trying to decide what to do, was like watching an old, jerky, silent movie. It was clear that they knew mom was eating crabapples and they wanted some too, or perhaps they were just nervous being separated from their mother.

Then, suddenly, action! With only a little difficulty, a young doe jumped in and started eating while mom watched to see if the other one was coming. There followed a brief interval of nibbling, watching, more nibbling and more watching. They seemed to see and hear us through the window, but were not as interested in us as they were in other noises. Mom was watching her other kid across the fence, but she also took notice whenever a car passed or someone walked by. The morning was well under way and the neighborhhod was becoming increasingly active. The deer became more nervous, both these two and the two in the lot on the other side of the fence.

Since I figured that they would be leaving soon anyway, I thought I'd see what they would do if I went outside. Neither the noise of the door opening or my appearance spooked them enough to cause them to leave.

They simply stood still and stared at me. It was a standoff. I approached ever closer, but they never moved. I waved my ams and said "Shoo!". Nothing. Perhaps they thought I had food for them. A few more steps and I began to wonder if the doe would be motivated to protect her nearly-grown yearling daughter. Deciding that getting too close might not be a good idea, I backed off and went inside.

My leaving shook them out of their trance. After one last brief look around, the doe made her exit. Good. I didn't have to worry about my flower beds or the birdseed and nuts I had put out for the squirrels on the patio. The three other deer were waiting for her. Once she made it across, they headed down the alley and were gone.
This simple drama of the two young does who did not want to be separated from their mother, the one who dared the jump to be with mom, but then hesitated to follow her back out, the one who waited nervously for mom to return, and mom's protective watchfulness while trying to get a bite to eat, seemed so familar. Whether animal or human, the tie between mother and child is obvious.
Happy Mother's Day!


Sydney said...

I remember you writing about these three last year. Happy Mother's Day!

Yarnhog said...

Great post! Wonderful pictures. Thanks for sharing, and Happy Mother's Day.

Marjorie said...

I enjoyed your post, but I don't enjoy the deer in my garden. You'd better keep an eye on your flowers.

One thing about deer that does evoke my sympathy is that they are tremendously nearsighted (as am I). That might be one reason for the hesitation at the fence.