We Bought a Zoo, Take Three

All summer long, we watched three fawns grow into their adolescent selves in our yard. Yes, these are three new fawns—not the same ones as last year. Their coats have turned a more muted brown, and they have officially lost their spots and their playful nature over the last six months.

These deer, plus a few others, show up faithfully several times a day to eat the last drops from our numerous apple trees. At this point, there is only one tree left that still has some apples on it—they have eaten every single piece of fruit that fell to the ground. 

A friend of mine from college came to visit a few weeks ago, and as she drove up our driveway, about five deer scattered off into the woods. We laughed about how it reminded us of Funny Farm, an old Chevy Chase movie. Chase was a city dweller trying to resell the Vermont home he had just purchased, and as the potential buyers were arriving to check it out, he whispers, “Release the deer!” and lets a deer out of a cage to walk across the front lawn.

The deer are in full force right now getting ready for the long winter ahead. Just in case I become attached to any of these adorable fawns, I read recently that in one of the northeast states, only 20 percent of the bucks even make it through their first year. In New Hampshire, 11,652 deer were killed last year, which was 14 percent of our total pre-season population. That’s a lot of deer. We’re in the middle of the muzzleloader and archery seasons, and firearm starts this Wednesday. 

I was headed up Interstate 95 in Maine this week, behind a maroon Toyota Tacoma. It wasn’t even a real truck, an F350 or a Tundra—there was an extended cab, but in this truck it looked like a place where you’d put your kids. But in the back of the truck, in the open bed, there was a dead buck.

The deer was facing backwards, and looked as if he were sleeping. He was at least an eight-pointer—his head was resting on a piece of Styrofoam, his legs tied together with zip ties, leaning to one side. He looked peaceful. His head was somehow tied to the tailgate so it wouldn’t bounce and break his rack.

I followed this deer for 20 miles up the highway. It felt like he was watching me the whole way.

Years ago, when I used to live on a busy road, a doe was once struck by a car and came into our yard to die. We didn’t see the accident happen, but as I was walking through the backyard a few days later, I came across the carcass lying on the ground. Her side was bloodied and broken. I cried.

Native American lore says that deer represent innocence and the return to the wilderness. When deer show up in your life, it is time to be gentle with yourself and others. Jamie Sams described this in Medicine Cards: “If Deer [appears,] find the gentleness of spirit that heals all wounds. Stop pushing to get others to change, and love them as they are.”

Does this mean I need to stop irritating my 16-year-old about his grades?

Maybe this means I need to stop pushing myself to work 24-7.

I’m sure it means I must love the hunters who are cold and prowling the woods right now, watching for the flicking of any white tail. They truly are keeping our deer healthier and helping manage the overall population.

And this means I will love the hunter who owns the beat-up white sedan that he parks every morning across the street at the bottom of our long driveway. I certainly have compassion for him—the poor guy is beating the bushes trying to find deer, and if only he walked up our driveway, he’d find five under our apple tree.


P.S. In case you missed the first two drama-ridden Zoo episodes, here are the links to “We Bought a Zoo,” (Take One)  and “We Bought a Zoo, Take Two.”