We Bought a Zoo, Take Two

The animal-drama is getting a bit out of hand.

Earlier this summer, we found a baby fawn that could barely walk. We watched him trail after his mother for a few weeks. She taught him valuable lessons such as how to deal with our wire fence: she’d leap over it gracefully, and he’d just stand there, perplexed. He bounced off the fence a few times, paced back and forth, until he finally went through it. The wire squares were big enough at first that he could do that.

That was all fine and amusing, but then one day we looked out in the yard, and saw not just one fawn with the mother, but two.

It’s pretty common that a doe has twins. She will place them safely in separate places when they are first born until they’re strong enough to travel with her. They’ll then stay with her for a year.

So then we watched two fawns chasing after each other, eating the grass, skipping across the lawn, and bravely tackling our fence. Sometimes with their mother, sometimes on their own (although I’m sure Mom was in the woods nearby).

For a long time, we thought there were just two babies. But then one day we looked out the front windows and saw three. What was going on? Were they multiplying, or had we just somehow become the location of the neighborhood fawn care? Was the mother a deer ho?

All three fawns have been hanging out in our yard this summer—sometimes together, sometimes just the pair, sometimes with the mother, sometimes on their own. We don’t know if the third fawn is from the same mother, or if he was deer-adopted. It’s like having our own Wild Kingdom in our backyard. Where’s Marlin Perkins when we need him?

One day my boyfriend D. noticed one of the fawns by itself, and limping. The deer planted himself in the backyard just on the other side of our fence, and laid there in the grass for half the day. And he rested in the landscaped bed, hidden inside the ornamental grasses, right next to our front patio. He was not putting weight on the leg at all.

It was very traumatizing, worrying about this little fawn—he was not that big yet—maybe the size of a dog. I heard him at 5:15 am one morning wailing loudly and bleating in the woods right next to our house—so loud that he sounded like he was caught in a trap or stranded down by the river. And then the other night, D. heard a coyote in the middle of the night howling near our house. I just don’t think I can handle the idea of a pack of coyotes finding these little guys.

The good news is that so far, the injured fawn seems to have made it. This week, he is putting weight on his leg again. It must not be broken, which was our big worry with the winter coming. We can see some bad cuts that are healing.

Sure, there are 30 million deer (more or less) in the United States. We have about 85,000 (or maybe 85,003) in New Hampshire. Fish and Game has a 10-year “Big Game” plan that is designed to manage them, along with other animals that are running amok in the state. Maybe it will be like our own wildlife The Hunger Games.  

Hopefully, the fawns will make it through hunting season. Last winter, once the season started, all of the deer disappeared until the spring—probably moving deeper into the conservation land behind our house. They’re not going far—the typical range is usually about a square mile, and they seem to have decided that this is their home. While they’re babies, this is fine—but I also read that a deer will eat five to nine pounds of food for every 100 pounds of weight every day. We pruned our apple trees this year and we just don’t have quite that many cucumbers our garden!

D.’s the best wildlife spotter and always notices when they are in the yard. When he saw another fox last night in back of our shed, he said he might as well be Grizzly Adams.

Then again, even our cat Tuna has a deer detector now. When she sees the fawns in the yard, she flies to the windowsill and darts from window to window, straining to see what they are doing as they move across the grass. In her case, with a brain the size of an apple, she doesn’t seem to know the difference between a fawn and a moth.