We Bought a Zoo!

Summer has finally come to New Hampshire. With each new season there’s always something new going on in the yard. First, it was turkeys madly poking about, looking for insects and nuts—all the while pooping on our patio and giving our cat Tuna a veritable heart attack as she watched them on the front lawn.

But then there was a baby fawn that we found quivering by our fence a few weeks ago. He wasn’t able to walk very well and after trying to scamper off into the woods, he finally gave up, exhausted, and curled in a tiny ball on the edge of the lawn. My boyfriend D. went into the house to google “abandoned baby fawn.”

(Okay, maybe he didn’t write “baby” fawn, but it sounds so much cuter that way.)

We learned online that in fact, a female deer always abandons a new fawn, coming back only twice a day to feed it. A brilliant plan to avoid attracting predators, worked out in the genetic pattern of deer over thousands of years. How cool is that? This fawn was barely bigger than the grass blades, and he allowed us to gently stroke his white-spotted coat.

Now, to all of you PETA-lovers out there: No, he won’t be abandoned by his mother now that he has our human scent all over him. We checked. (Well, we did check after we touched him.) But we were glad to find out that deer are so used to human scent that finding that smell on their precious newborns doesn’t faze them at all. Or at least that is what everyone who contributes to Wikipedia says.

Seriously—it’s true. The mother will, in fact, put her baby in a safe place and then come back to feed it. Just last week there was a fawn found in a garage in Massachusetts. If the mother can’t find the fawn, she will look for a total of about 72 hours and then give up. Various web sites say that as long as the fawn’s coat and spots look healthy and its nose looks wet, then no need to worry, the deer is being well taken care of.

We weren’t that surprised to find a fawn in our yard—last summer a mother and a baby fawn hung out here for months. They liked the well-stocked salad bar we offered, including apple trees and perennial gardens. Those deer actually ate every single last apple we had (with the help of a porcupine or two)—and we must have had a thousand or two apples, between eight or so trees.

So, when we saw an older, more grown adolescent deer last week, dangerously nearing the pepper and cucumber plants, we started becoming suspicious that our yard has become the new birthing wing of the General Deer Hospital.

That’s not good news for this year’s apple crop.

As much as I was enthralled by the fawn, my favorite sighting this month was last Thursday. I was on a conference call in my home office, blandly staring out the window, and I spotted a big body just behind the lilac bushes. A moose? A deer? Wait! There were three of them! What the heck were those things?

It was three cows, who moseyed along the edge of the woods, around the corner of our house, and then across our front lawn. One of them carelessly lumbered up to the sprinkler that was watering a patch of grass, and then heaved up on his back legs in surprise, eyes popping out of his head, when he felt the water hit him in the face. Serves him right for hanging out in a residential district.

I went out after the cows, not exactly sure what I was going to do with them. Other than having seen City Slickers twice, I know nothing about herding cows. But following them down the driveway seemed like the most natural thing—as natural as cows coming out of the woods at your house. Eventually, they took off down the road and I just watched them go.

My boyfriend D. saw the same cows a week or two before. They came out of the woods on the other side of our house. He wasn’t sure what else to do, so he called the police. We have exactly one and a half police officers in our town—I am not sure if he talked to the one, or to the half. But the officer said, “Hmmm! What color were they?” and “Do you know who the cows belong to?”

Uh…no? If we did, wouldn’t we call them?

At least we filed a report, so now those spotted four-legged friends have a record. IF they ever come back when we are out of town and stomp on our sprinkler, it will be their third offense. That carries a hefty fine in this town where the biggest crime is a bat-swinging teenager crushing your mailbox (which has happened twice since we moved in, by the way).

I’m thinking of installing a night-vision camera at the foot of the driveway to keep an eye out for those teenaged hoodlums. If the mailbox-crushing happens again, I’ll send a troupe of mad cows after them. Or, I’ll send the hoodlums after the mad cows. Not sure which.