Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Around Aberdeen: Day of the Fawn

For some reason, I was extremely tired late in the afternoon on Tuesday. After a lengthy conversation with E (E's not really known for brief conversations - in fact, neither am I), I caught the bus back to my digs, got into the fridge to get some leftover Gurka Kitchen chow, and as I was going to my room I saw a red deer out the hallway window. Once I got into my room, I kept an eye on the deer. I live near a river, and on the outskirts of my neighborhood, so seeing deer out my window is common enough that I look for them whenever I wake up and probably see them two or three times per week. I had some news to call my parents with, so I called, and almost immediately told my mother that I needed to call her back. Why? Simple: I noticed that I wasn't just looking at a single doe (apparently a "hind" in the local vernacular), but a doe/hind and her newborn fawn.

I watched the pair for a few minutes, and snapped a few pictures at the extreme range of my camera's zoom capabilities. I called my folks back for a few minutes, and then got off the phone with them and continued watching them, figuring that I'd keep checking on them throughout the afternoon. If they're undisturbed, the deer tend to hang around for a while and graze. The fawn wasn't walking very quickly, and stayed close to its mother, walking to catch up whenever it fell a few feet behind. The mother was extremely alert, as one would expect. At a couple of points, the fawn walked directly under the doe/hind, which was always cognizant not to step on the fawn. The doe/hind was repeatedly licking the fawn, suggesting to me that it may have even been born earlier this afternoon.

A few minutes later, I looked up to see the doe/hind bolting away. I didn't see the fawn following - not surprising, since it was moving slowly to begin with. I looked out the window from another angle, and was shocked to see that one of my neighbors - a young Chinese woman who was obviously born without any common sense - had gotten to within about thirty feet of the fawn, and was continuing to walk up. I opened my window and yelled at her to leave them alone, and she turned around and said "Sorry!", but then kept walking forward, finally stopping. She had her camera up, and apparently didn't understand that spooking the doe/hind so that it ran away from its baby meant that she was too bloody close. I sat there, monitoring her and continually motioning urgently for her to leave whenever she'd look up at me. After standing there with a stupid grin on her face for a few minutes, she finally left. I kept an eye out for the doe/hind, and posted the following Facebook status (to unanimous support):
Dear stupid Chinese student,

If a doe runs away from her newborn fawn because you're getting too close, the correct course of action is not to walk closer to the abandoned fawn and keep taking pictures.

Everyone with Common Sense
I plugged a search string into Google, and was relieved to find the following information on the "Leave the Fawns Alone!" page:
3. Often does will not return to their fawns until well after dark.

4. Keep yourself and pets far away from the fawn. It may take a good 24 hours for a doe to feel safe enough to return to her fawn. If a mother were to return to her fawn prematurely, she might risk leading a predator directly to her fawn.

5. Do not touch the fawn! This could cause the mother to reject it. If the fawn has already been "handled", wipe the fawn off with a clean towel rubbed with dirt, put on a clean pair of gloves, and return the fawn to the site of origin.


8. Fawns are born late May through the end of June, with the peak number born in early June. Mother deer often give birth at night in areas (such as people's front yards) which may seem perfectly safe at night but differ drastically during daylight hours.

9. For the first 5 days after birth, fawns will not run when approached. Instead, they will exhibit "freeze behavior". They lie still when approached, even permitting handling with little resistance. From the 7th day on, fawns will exhibit "flight behavior" when approached. By one month of age fawns venture out to browse with their mothers.
The doe/hind was back in sight a while later; fortunately, the Chinese girl didn't touch the fawn. At twilight, the doe/hind was still sort of hovering around the vicinity, never getting any closer than about fifty yards to where I think the fawn must have bedded down. The next morning, the doe/hind was still bedded down, then got up at about 8:00 AM, did a bit of grazing, and then finally went over for a quick pass at the fawn. I saw movement from the fawn, which was on the other side of a big clump of vegetation from me. After just a minute, the doe/hind walked about ten yards away and bedded down - presumably for the day, since deer are nocturnal.

Hopefully, they'll be around over the next few weeks. I'm still absolutely gobsmacked not only that the Chinese girl could have been so stupid and selfish, but also that she could have been so oblivious as to keep approaching the fawn and taking pictures with a stupid grin on her face when she'd chased the mother away from its offspring. Unbelievable.

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