Saturday, June 2, 2012

Oh Deer!

It's spring in Michigan which means little critters are being born all over. And every so often, for a variety of reasons, they're orphaned. And that's how my family and I found ourselves bottle-feeding a fawn at 11:00 one night last week.

As a general rule I believe wildlife ought to be left in the wild. In particular, fawns that appear abandoned often aren't. White-tailed does in Michigan usually give birth sometime in May to copper-colored white-spotted fawns. Twins are common, especially with the abundant food and mild winters of late.

Very young fawns instinctively bed down after nursing and, unlike toddlers in shopping malls, stay where they're put. If you happen to find a fawn quiet and motionless on a walk in the woods, chances are he's fine and his mom is nearby. Most rehabilitators will tell you to take all the pictures you like, quickly, and then leave the fawn undisturbed. If conscience and curiosity insist, it's o.k. to check later.

If you do check later and the fawn is up wandering aimlessly and crying before you've touched him then you may have an orphan and contacting a licensed wildlife rehabilitator may be in order.

The fawn that sojourned at my house last week was crying and staggering weakly along a country road alone at night. I was on the way home from an equine emergency call as my husband and daughters were returning from a late track meet. I read the text about the rescue minutes before they pulled in the driveway with the little guy.

My initial reaction was mixed. It was late, I was tired and I had a Charlie Brown moment of, "Good Grief," one more thing to manage. However, this was soon followed by the grateful realization that we had raised compassionate daughters who recognized a fellow creature in need and acted as best they could. My youngest daughter said, "Mom, you know how people say, 'My heart melted?' Now I know what they're talking about." I thought, 'Me too.'

We decided to call the little guy Arthur because he seemed to be on a quest of his own. He was chilled and weak, with no suckle reflex. Healthy young mammals will almost always "nurse" on a finger tip gently placed in their mouths. The absence of that reflex suggests weakness and possibly hypoglycemia, (low blood sugar.) Fortunately I had some dextrose on hand and the means to give him a dose intravenously. Thanks to a friend and local rehabilitator, I also had access to powdered milk replacer, (regular cow's milk is not appropriate), and a bottle. It was a little work, but he did end up with a full belly before bed and was beginning to catch on to the bottle idea the next day before his transfer to Wildside Rehabilitation and Education Center in Eaton Rapids.

An offer of friendship from Minerva Jayne to Arthur
(Or did she just want her bed back?)
This morning, as I walked along my country road, I found the discarded primary feather of a red-tailed hawk. Unmarred by our recent rain or passing traffic, it seemed perfect. Twice I held it aloft in the strong breeze to see if it would catch the wind and sail across the adjacent field. Twice it quickly plunged to the pavement. It was a beautiful morning and I couldn't help waxing a bit philosophical. Good wind or no, that feather needed its mates to fly. A hand raised in thanks to a passing motorist or an unmet neighbor, a smile and a word of encouragement or truth along the way, we all need a little help in our quests to get where we're going.

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