Somewhere around the dinner hour, my cell rang. It was Sean, good friend to animals of both the two-legged and four-legged varieties. His Mom had spotted a young deer in her front yard and no Mama Deer was around. Sean remembered that my daughter volunteered at a the Salthaven wildlife rehab center and was looking for some advice on what needed to be done, if anything.
After a call to Salthaven, the advice was to leave Baby Deer where it was since Mama would likely show up by nightfall - this was normal deer stuff. If that didn't happen, we'd go to Plan B. Of course, nightfall came and my cell rang once more. Mama has not shown up to collect Baby. After some further calls, Plan B was that we should collect up the deer and bring into Salthaven for a look-see.
We had a mission! My daughter, my son, and I piled into our SUV and went to collect Sean. Then it was a short drive outside the city to his Mom's place where we would find Baby Deer nestled in some tall grass beside a rural road. While we expected to find a juvenile deer, this one was very small. My daughter figured Baby was less than two weeks old - the size of a small dog with very long legs.
Baby was not afraid of people and much too small to ride safely in the back of the SUV. We scooped it up in a blanket so that my daughter could hold it on her lap for the ride out to nearby Salthaven. The head of the rehab center, Brian Salt, met us in the laneway and performed in a sort-of physical on the deer, all the while educating us on how to determine the health of a deer (maybe that will come in handy someday).
|A deer, an SUV, and an ugly old blanket.|
The prognosis: Baby Deer was in in fine shape. It was strong and it had been fed recently. We learned that Mama Deer will often hide her baby and then leave it be for hours at a stretch - a tactic common in the first two weeks of a deer's life. The idea here is that Mama, being larger and more visible, can easily attract predators. By staying away from Baby Deer, she can outrun predators without endangering her offspring.
|The Boy and a temprary pet.|
We were encouraged to return Baby Deer since Mama would come looking again. As long as we put it somewhere within 100 yards of where we found it, things would work out okay. So it was back into the SUV for the five of us and back to the quiet country road where we started. Sean had the idea that we should put Baby further away from the road. Grabbing a flashlight, he led us through a farmer's field toward a nearby woodlot.
|The Girl swears this is not a puppy, but still...|
It was a little bit surreal - tromping single-file through field stubble late on a Sunday night with our new four-legged friend wrapped in a blanket. We found a good spot for Baby Deer, and watched as it explored the undergrowth until it found a reasonable bed of leaves for the night. After updates for Sean's Mom, we drove back into the city hoping that Mama Deer would do her job.
There were no further sightings of deer the next day. We took that as a good sign even though we all wondered whether Baby and Mama were okay. Nature would take its course - it always does. But I think we all felt a bit priviledged to give Nature a little shove in the right direction.