Leave Bambi Alone!

319176_2291989458165_1449082923_nWhen I started my blog, I was just writing about animal things.  Once I started typing, though, I blurted out everything that went through my head.  Insert your comments here, I’ll wait.

Now that this time of year has come around, I feel I need to be sure to get the word out about baby animals.  Just a quick, factual blurb.

Fawns are born at the end of May.  It used to be after Memorial Day, but it seems to be earlier and earlier every year.  Today I had my 5th well meaning call on fawns.  Fawns, my most beloved animal on earth.  They cause me so much anguish that I’m walking around snapping at everyone because I’m worried about the last two calls I received.

Here is how an average call goes:

Caller: Hi….is this…..

Me:  This is Elexis Hays.  Are you calling about an animal?

Caller:  Yes…silence…I got your number from…let’s see….

Me: Arrrgghhhh!!!!!  What do you have?

Caller:  I have an abandoned fawn.

Me: (Silently swearing) Where did you find it?

Caller: The mom abandoned it in my yard, (woods, near a playground, school, church, wherever).

Then I have to go through the entire conversation that tells them that they have, essentially, kidnapped the fawn and the mother is in turmoil and the baby will never be just right, even though I am a fantastic fawn mom if I do say so myself.


Here are the facts.  Mother deer usually have two babies.  Sometimes they have three, first time moms have one.  They separate the babies and hide them somewhere where they believe they’ll be safe.  They are thinking like a deer, not understanding where your property lines lay.  They don’t care that you live on a golf course or that you live in a trailer. No, they don’t know that they are causing your poodle to bark inside the house.  They aren’t interested in how much you paid for your pansies. They are not aware of the Atlanta city limits. (Last year, someone called from inside Atlanta and DEMANDED that I come remove a deer from her yard because she lived INSIDE THE CITY LIMITS.)  Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to anyone except the mom.

Babies are left to themselves ALL DAY.  Moms hide them at dawn and come back at dusk.  Sometimes, she’ll pick the same spot several days in a row.  Your coiled up hose may look like Moses’ basket to her.  Under your trampoline might look shady and inviting.  Fawns have very little odor.  If the mother were to be pursued by a predator, she can most likely out run it, but not with babies tagging along.  Hidden, the babies lie very quietly all day and in this way, they are kept safe from evildoers.  Their camouflage is so perfect that I have searched for one, lying just where I left him, and not even seen him.  I can yell and scream for him and when my eyes finally focus on him he’ll be blinking his long eyelashes and looking at me as if to say, “Yes?  And you are hollering because…?”.

421485_3651078994554_1266110549_n394312_3505324830791_427456038_n(Because I almost never include pictures of “The Boy”, and because I am having end of the school year fury with him, I’d like to remind myself of all the years he’s helped me out by feeding babies because he has a sweet animal loving soul.  This is about a 7 year age difference, and I can still depend on him to give someone a bottle, if not to pass Latin.)

Imagine if you put your baby to bed and came back to find her gone?  It makes me so sad when I’m feeding a newbie and imagining the mother searching for days.

It’s basically the same with rabbits.  Just because you don’t see the mother come back, don’t worry.  Rabbits are shifty.  They’re sneaky.  If you disturb a nest, build it back as best you can, replace the babies and check on them daily to make sure they’re not dying of dehydration.  If they their skin snaps back when you do the “pinch” test, no worries.  The mom is sneaking back, just like nature intended.

I get lots of calls for birds, about which I know almost nothing.  Mostly, though, they are fledglings. Several times I’ve written about fledglings.  Baby birds don’t fly from the nest.  They live on the ground for several weeks while they get their big bird feathers and their parents teach them the ropes. Leave them alone and keep your cats inside if you can.

If you see a mother deer that has been hit, look around for the baby.  This is the situation I’m in today.  It makes me sick, knowing that one or two little ones are out there  and will starve to death.  The caller, a caring individual, has assembled a team to search.  Even though I’ve taken myself off the DNR list this summer due to travel, I have agreed to take this baby.  I adore deer.  They are smart, just like dogs.  They play, they have personalities, they live in family groups and mothers and daughters can stay together for life.  They harm no one.  Deer hunting is wrong, no matter what anyone was raised to believe.  It is a good wholesome tradition in the same way shooting someone’s dog is great family fun.

538164_3505325230801_43448364_n(No, it is not right that they are in my kitchen.  As usual, someone left a door open and when they came in, The Goose snapped a picture.  Most likely because my shirt was too low.)

Pass this along.  I would say 90% of the babies I’ve raised have come from a kidnapping situation.  Well meaning, but wrong, nonetheless.  If people just knew babies are meant to be alone all day, they could enjoy the privilege of having a sweet little fawn in their yard for a day or two, maybe snap a couple of pictures and allow the little one to grow up wild, just like she’s supposed to.

Although these pictures show cute little babies, deer are not pets.  Of course, while they’re being fed and cleaned by me (and many times by my long suffering kids), they see me as mom.  As they get a little older, they come off the bottle are are made to forage for themselves.  By the time I release them, around Labor Day, they are independent little thinkers.  I’m sure they wonder, now and then, when they’re out on their own, where their hairless ugly mother is, but my goal is always for them to live in the wild.  Deer that are raised in captivity until adulthood usually have to be destroyed because they become a danger to themselves and others.  So please, just enjoy out your window!

And that’s my friendly animal rant of the day.

(Deer wear collars only as babies, so I can tell who has been fed and keep a good record of their health.  Also, so I can spot them in the 5 acres in which they’re left to roam.  Of course, they don’t leave home with a collar! Believe me, if it were right to release deer with collars, there would be a vast herd in the wild, all wearing Lilly Pulitzer collars with bells.)

Wildlife Woe

ImageYesterday, I went to a fun football party.  Not fun because of football, which I don’t understand nor have any desire to watch, but because it was with lots of old high school friends and included jello shots and Triscuits, my favorite things ever.

On the way home, the Goose was driving (as usual as it would threaten his masculinity otherwise) and I yelled “Stop! There’s a good one!” and we pulled over to bag up a juicy piece of roadkill.

Uh huh, roadkill.  This is all because I had a black vulture waiting in the barn for me at home.

I don’t accept birds. I know almost nothing about them. I work with small mammals and deer.  The only thing I know about birds is that if someone finds small birds on the ground NOT to move them, they haven’t fallen from the nest, they are fledglings and their mom is somewhere nearby in a panic because some fool is messing with her babies.

Even knowing nothing, I took this bird because some super nice people called me after striking out with 11 other rehabbers.  I caved in and told them to bring him over. He was beautiful.  I’ll admit that some of the vulture’s manners are less than perfect, but they really are cool birds.  I called the bird guru, The Pagan Raptor Goddess, but she wasn’t taking vultures.  She is a wealth of info and I always want to give a shout out to her organization, Hawktalk.org.

This morning, after having my hand shredded by this glorious creature, I finally got him down to Chattahoochee Nature Center.  The only good thing about the bloody injury on my part was that my son’s friend with diabetes jumped forward and gave me a quickie blood test, which came out a little low but he suggested it was a left over jello shot problem. Saved me a $35 annual physical copay.

The good folks at the nature center, who do great work with wildlife and are responsible for sending me Tortellini and Tiki, our emu, were happy to take him and I felt great when I left. On my way home, top down, radio up, sun shining, I got the call that his wing was shattered and he was being euthanized at that moment.

Now, I’ve grown a thick skin over my years of rehab.  I’ve had to put down lots of animals and my poor Goose has helped me with even more.  It’s horrible but necessary.   Some stories, though, just get to me.  What got to me is that I had spent the entire ride telling this magnificent bird to just hold on, help was close by.

Of course, I KNOW he didn’t understand, I get that a bird that can’t fly will mentally fall apart and I accept that this was the only option.  It just caused a deep sadness.

I spent the rest of the ride listening to depressing music, being angry at the drivers ahead of me, regardless of my new kind thoughts toward others, and thinking back over the sad cases I’ve had. I once had a summer when a virus took 7 of my little fawns.  Only one survived.  The last one, the smallest, writhed and screamed in my arms for an hour until I finally had to concede he wouldn’t make it.  He whimpered and wept like a baby and I cried along with him.  After that summer, I took the next year off from animals.

I know the sad losses I’ve seen cannot compare with the sadness of others.  My friend who held her son while he passed away, the family that lost their sweet little girl a few weeks ago, the Trophy Wife’s friend who lost her 16 year old son just yesterday to an accident, these tragedies are beyond my comprehension.

Mine are just little sadnesses that cause a heart to get harder and stronger, but sometimes, a little crack appears like today and I spend a half an hour or so being mad at God and not understanding why animals, who are wholly good, have to suffer.

I don’t have an answer or an upbeat ending except to think that all the years I’ve spend in church I’ve heard Jesus’ quote that “in my Father’s house there are many mansions”.  I don’t want a mansion.  What I’m desperately hoping for is a big beautiful barn where the souls of all the precious creatures that I’ve lost are finally safe, happy and whole.

Not Tonight, Deer

Everything has a season.  As a native Atlantan I come by this knowledge naturally.  I was lucky enough to have a mother who knew the right way to do everything and did it better than anyone else, bless their ignorant northern hearts.  Not just the rules about white shoes and not only how to work a seating chart and correct place settings.  I’m talking the subtle things like what to wear at the funeral of a second wife that may or may not have been hanging in the wings shortly before the demise of the first.  When frosted lipstick is okay (never), when to take someone a casserole (at the first sign of a sneeze) and when a glass of wine is okay (never, it’ll send you straight to Hell).  Obviously, though I was reared properly, some of this just didn’t take.  Still, I love the idea that certain things belong at certain times of the year.  June, for me, means straw purses, Lilly Pulitzer skirts and fawns.  I get calls from well meaning people who find “orphaned” fawns.  “It was all alone, it’s mother left it!” they bleat over the phone.  They call after the poor little thing is weak and sick and after they’ve crammed milk down it’s throat for days and wonder why it’s sick.  Mother deer leave their babies alone all day.  The babies have no scent and can’t run fast yet so they snuggle up under a plant and just blend in.  They are so camouflaged that sometimes when I’m standing right next to one even I miss it.  So, I received these sick little kidnapped babies while I envision their mothers pining for them and wondering what happened.  Still, I enjoy the little sweeties and get a kick out of raising a healthy wild buck or doe to be released in the fall.  I’ve raised lots of babies and all have gone well except one.  Every mother knows her weak link.  This is the brilliant kid who will climb up into your skirt when a sweet little old lady talks to her at the grocery store.  The kid who follows you constantly, breathing heavily by the bathroom door until you’re done.  The one who wants you to come eat lunch with her at school – in 10th grade.  I had a deer like that named Zippy.  She just couldn’t separate.  While the others romped and played reindeer games, she walked from door to door around the outside of my house, just trying to catch a glimpse of me.  When the others left to go live their lives, she would sneak back in through the gate, climb up the stairs and flop down in deep depression by the door until I emerged and she could gaze, rapt, at me.

The final straw came when my husband, The Golden Goose, came home from work in suit and fabulous tie and flopped down on the bed for a moment.  Everyone knows that if a man remains horizontal for any amount of time, without a woman present, he will immediately go to sleep.  Zippy, ever on constant vigil, saw an opportunity through the french doors, maneuvered them open with her nose and crept into the bedroom and onto the bed to spoon with him.  The Golden Goose puts up with a lot, I’ll admit.  Life is, well, unusual at our house.  He tries so hard to stay unaffected and above it all, but this occasion proved to be too much.  Although he remained stoic while I heaved and pushed the full grown doe off our custom bedding and across the pristine carpet, he did have the wherewithal to mummer “not tonight, dear” before he closed his eyes again.

Zippy was soon trailered off my property and happily released elsewhere.  Although she doesn’t write home often, I know she’s thinking of me.