As homesteaders, farmers, ranchers and breeders of livestock, we have a “thing” about animals deep inside us. For some of us it’s our passion. My mother has always told me my first word was “horse” and with my father raised on a farm, it’s a safe guess that this is the reason I have this passion.
Faylene as a newborn
Back in 1999 I had a call from a frantic woman. She had watched a doe (White Tail) give birth in the woods beside her house. Boy, what I wouldn’t give to see that! The problem was, she had a set of triplets and the doe left with 2 of them in tow. She went out to see a little-bit-of-a-thing trying to stand up but was having a hard time. She remembered I had dairy goats and gave me a call. As I was hanging the phone up, I was telling the kids to get in the truck, I had a surprise! With a dog create in the back we were looking at the little fawn within minutes. She was so small that she walked right through the 4” square horse panels. Oh my, this was going to be very interesting. Of course teaching my son & daughter that she was not going to be a pet was another thing.
Sarabi & Faylene at 6 months old
From the first time I saw the movie, “Born Free”, I wanted to grow up to be Joy Adams. To this day, it’s my favorite movie of all time & yes, I still cry at the end. Ok, I know I really don’t want to deal with lions but what better than a baby deer, who wouldn’t see me as lunch?
Faylene, 6 months old
I wanted to give her the start she needed in her life but not have an adult deer eating my roses and garden. Good thing she took the
bottle right away and even though it was goat colostrums it was not an issue for her. I figured if she was not bottle fed, it would be better for her when it was time to leave and be the magnificent deer that God intended her to be. I didn’t want to be her “mamma”. Ok, I did, but knew it would be best for her if I wasn’t.
Faylene sneaking feed
This brought on a new thought, I have the Alpine’s, they give milk, I have a fawn, she needs milk, soooo, why can’t she just nurse the goat and the bottle issue would be solved? One of my doe’s (goat) had been a nurse goat to many kids that were not hers. After a night in the house, in the dog crate, and me feeding Faylene (say it with a Southern accent) every 1.5 hours through the night, oh, yes, she needs to nurse a goat on demand.
Sarabi & adopted ''kids''. Yes, with kitten under foot.
Sarabi was the doe of choice and never had a problem letting Faylene nurse her. They were adopted mom & daughter from the start and if you didn’t know that was a fawn out in the barnyard, you’d think Sarabi gave birth to her. No one would ever think of being mean to Faylene as her “mom” was the lead doe after all. It warmed my heart every day to see this little family develop. There were daughters of Sarabi in the herd and they all slept together at night with Faylene tucked beside her “mom”.
A few days later when it looked like she was going to survive, I called the Humane Society here in town. I knew the manager well and told her I had the fawn. She was happy as there were not many wild life rehabilitators for deer in our county. She would tell the game warden for me. I was hoping he wouldn’t take her but as it turned out he was thrilled that I wasn’t bottle feeding her. There are classes for rehabbers that each state conducts and I’d have to go through that if I wanted to continue doing this. Of course I did!
So, we were all set to raise Faylene and she was thriving. By the time she was 6 months old her spots had faded and she did blend in well with the goat herd. When she decided to start jumping fences, I figured she had good instincts. There are woods across the road from us and many times I’d see her head there for the night.
One day while I was out in the front yard weeding the flower beds and the water sprinkler was on, something caught my eye and there she was, standing so still, looking like a statue in the front yard. What a moment to enjoy, then a split second later I was laughing so hard at the deer that was trying her best to stomp the water coming from the sprinkler.
She had also become the leader of the herd when it came to going out to the pastures. She would tell the goats to stay back while she went out to see if it was Ok to go. I remembered Bambi’s mom doing it and to see it in real life was amazing. They must have had a way of communicating as the goats trusted her.
By this time it was getting close to kidding season again and Sarabi was always the first one to kid. Faylene was weaned and I have no idea when that happened as I sure didn’t try putting her in the weaning pen. As Sarabi never kidded without me there, the day came and we were in the barnyard waiting but she was acting odd. She didn’t want to lye down and kept looking across the road toward the woods. Yup, she was waiting for Faylene and called for her. Within minutes I heard the sound I had come to know as her screech and over the fence she bounded and a second later over the barnyard fence and she was beside mom. Sarabi was content now and went to working on giving birth to her twins. Faylene helped her clean them off.
I don’t know if this was a lesson for her when she was to have her first baby but that’s how I see it. It was obvious that Faylene was
rather plump and it was 2 months later when she showed up at the kitchen door. She had been gone for a few weeks and I had looked for her a few times. The homework I had done about deer taught me that their gestation is 7 months while a goat has 5. It was obvious that she had had her baby. I looked at her udder and it was wonderful. I was surprised deer have 4 teats like cows do.
Then, I had a Lassie moment. She didn’t want me to go back to the house. I was to follow her and she kept making sure I was. The fence that she floated over was not so easy for me but I did get through it with only 2 scratches from the barbed wire. She was bringing me to her fawn. OH, I wanted to touch it so bad. Tears were rolling down my face. “Born Free” came to mind and I really knew I couldn’t touch it. This was a wild animal and so was her mom now. I hugged Faylene and she licked my neck, not kidding. She was what God wanted her to be and I had a part in it.
Faylene & her fawn
As the years passed she would return every year on Father’s Day, not kidding here either, and have her fawns with her. She’d come to the barnyard and show Sarabi her “kids”. They would play with the goat kids for a short time. She never left without letting us see her babies and every time I watched her leave a part of me went with her.
In the fall of 2010 I was watching a deer that was in the 80 acres behind my house. She had been standing in the same spot for 2 hours looking toward the barnyard. I kept checking every half hour to see if she was still there. I grabbed the camera and went out to see if I could get closer to get a picture of her. I never thought it would be the deer that loved to stomp water & took me to see her first baby. There was a fence between us and she would not come to me. By this time we had added 3 Great Pyrenees to protect the herd so she wouldn’t come closer. When I focused the camera, I noticed her right ear had been torn. The same as Faylene had when she was learning to jump fences years back. Her age was really showing but she had made it past eleven years of
hunting seasons and produced many offspring to her credit. I also understood I’d never see her again but I smiled for this gift she had given me. She is also on my web site with Sarabi, www.milkmaidranch.com.
Sarabi isn't the only goat that would adopt fawns.
I have to add here that even though this is a remarkable thing in a person’s life, it’s not for someone that doesn’t respect animals.
Wild animals are wild animals. Faylene needed help, as have all the baby deer I’ve helped over the years. Some did not grow up and leave and that’s what was meant to be. Yes, some did die as babies. They are not ever penned up but with the herd and went out and came in with the herd. They leave when they want to and when that time is near, it’s what’s best for them. They don’t belong to me but to God, if He uses me to give them a start in life, then its fine with me.
Please, if you ever come across a baby deer, keep in mind that the mother does know where it is. Don’t disturb it, mom will be back. If you don’t see a doe dead near the road, you don’t know she was killed. I can’t say how many of them I’ve had that the person thought it was abandoned and mom was not around. YES, she was, you just didn’t see her. They are the color they are for a reason, so you don’t see them & it works. The doe usually will keep twins away from each other so if one is caught by a predator, the other one has a better chance to make it. She will spend her time going between them so they can nurse. She can stash one up to a mile away from the other. In time, when they get some speed to them, is when she’ll bring them together. BUT, if you do see one for a couple days & it’s weak, call the local Humane Society as they know how to handle them and will contact a rehabilitator.