I was just starting to bake a birthday cake for my husband when I heard an awful sound. A thud that could only be a car hitting a big hunk of flesh out in front of our house. I’d just sent my kids plus one from down the road outside to play a half an hour earlier. I felt sick.
When I ran outside, the car was partially hidden by a bush, but I could see the driver getting out and looking back, worried. Shit. When I got closer I saw it. A deer. A doe. She was still alive and flailing, but one of her hind legs wasn’t working and she couldn’t get up. She was in the middle of the road and the school run was on. We live in the country, but this was our busy time of day on a road that many will speed on and not see her. Then I realized the bigger problem.
We live on 5 acres in the country. About 5-6 years ago, we finally finished fencing in 4 of these acres of pasture and we’re the only place around without a dog. As a result, it seems, a doe drops one or two fawns in our pasture every May and there they stay until around September when they can finally jump the fence. More than one passerby has inquired about the deer ‘we raise’. During this time, the mother doe spends a lot of time going back and forth from our pasture, which involves crossing the road. Often leaping out of the bushes blindly.
This year, we had twins. We’d only just started seeing them about 2 weeks ago so I’d guess they were 4 weeks old, but I don’t really know anything about deer, so it’s a rough estimate. I do know they were still nursing and are very little and cute. The doe who was laying on the road was obviously their mom. She was engorged with milk. God, now I had to babies who were going to starve to death in our pasture, and we were leaving in two days for a two-week camping trip. I was still recovering from the feeling that one of the kids had been hit, so I wasn’t thinking very clearly. But I couldn’t figure out if we should put the doe down quickly, or drag her into the pasture so the fawns could nurse while she dies to buy them some time. And as awful and crazy as that sounds, that’s what we decided to do.
By ‘we’, I mean one woman stopped on her way to school (who had a gun and could help if we needed it) and two 20-something fellows in their work truck on their way to a job whose mom lived down the road (and reported nearly hitting this very same doe before). When I presented my dilemma (I seemed to be in charge because it was in front of my house and was sort of in posession of her offspring) we decided to call the Fish and Wildlife people. They didn’t quite know what to do at first, but then agreed on the ‘drag and nurse’. So the 4 of us,, plus the Fish and Wildlife officer who came out managed to get her onto a tarp, without getting kicked, and dragged the poor animal back near her fawns. By the time we got her there, she had gone into shock and soon afterwards died. We left them alone, but my guess is that her fawns did not nurse. All this time, the 11 year old boys had been standing at opposite ends of the road flagging traffic all this time and my 9 year old daughter was in tears. And my cake was still half done.
The Fish and Wildlife had fairly good news for me. Turns out that this was my (sort of) lucky day. Today was a big regional meeting for them in Vancouver and on their way home, some of the officers could stop by and take the fawns up north to some kind of wildlife sanctuary where they can care for orphaned animals. We’d have to wait until later though.
So that’s good. But now I have 3 traumatized children and myself and a cake. We all went in and had a snack and the kids seemed to need Lego. We talked a little, but sometimes, things are too raw to talk and Legos are the best course of action. The woman who had stopped came back over and came in for tea and we talked for a long time and exchanged numbers. Then, I was exhausted.
Fast forward to later that day. I had finally recovered from the morning, had resumed packing for our camping trip, and was getting my cake batter into cake pans when the Fish and Wildlife folks showed up. 4 of them in 3 trucks. They seemed very confident that, armed only with a camoflaged blanket, they could capture these two fawns by just walking up to them and putting them into a dog kennel. Doubtful, but lacking a better idea, I showed them where to go and stayed back in case they needed anything. I put my cake in the oven and brought the timer out with me.
Well, not surprisingly, it turns out they couldn’t just walk up and catch the fawns. Our fawns were already pretty fast and they were scared. I saw that the officers didn’t really have a viable plan B and that it was time to come up with one. So, I took my cake out of the oven and made my plan. We had 5 adults and 3 country kids and, more importantly, 100 feet of portable electronetting. The kind you use to keep your chickens or pigs in place with, hooked up to a battery. While two of the officers were doing laps around our 4 acres chasing the fawns, I walked out to the barn to fetch the netting. It’s 4 feet tall and kind of a pain to deal with. So I asked the 2 other officers and 3 children, and together, we started setting a trap in one corner of our pasture.
Sure enough, once we put it in place, 2 people were able to chase the fawns into this area and we were able to catch them. I was lucky enough to catch the second one. If you’ve ever had a 3 year old throw a wild tantrum and had to hold them tightly to keep them from hurting themselves or someone else, you know how this feels. I had my left arm holding the front legs against her chest and my right arm gathering her rear legs into her belly and laid on her until the others could bring the kennel over. Her face was scratched from bashing herself against our fencing in the chase and her heart was racing. Her ears were as soft as they look. She was so beautiful and scared. It felt like my prize for having such an awful, emotionally exhausting day to hold her for 30 seconds.
The whole process probably only lasted 40 minutes, but it was late-afternoon, and when we looked around, we realized we’d drawn a crowd. The part of the pasture all this had taken place in was right by the road. We don’t have a busy road and it certainly isn’t a place people just walk around to their neighbor’s house. But no fewer than 5 vehicles were pulled over in the road and in my driveway and multiple unfamiliar faces were leaning on our fence together watching the show, speculating on what was going on. Even my neighbors didn’t know as neither of them had been home in the morning when it happened. The next hour or so was spent telling the story, disposing of the doe’s body, washing tarps, putting away the netting and packing up the fawns for their journey.
It was my husband’s birthday. He got home from work while I was still cleaning up. We went in and I called the people who’d helped earlier that day to let them know how it all shook out and had dinner. And the cake. I can’t believe I managed to bake a cake during all this, and after persevering with it, it tasted as awful as a cake can taste. We told him the story at dinner and everyone was still pretty raw. I was glad we had a vacation coming up. We miss our fawns, but there is no shortage of deer in our area and one doe… maybe one of her children... has been hanging around. Maybe she’ll start using our pasture next year.