Sunday, November 11, 2012

Yes, For Some Reason There is an Archery Season for Deer

Every year at the nature preserve, during the 3 months of deer hunting season, we can always count on a certain number of wounded deer coming over our border. In most of these cases these animals are tracked but never found. They may die of their injuries in a few hours, or they may linger for months and die during the course of the long winter. Undoubtedly, some survive beyond that and may even recover to some degree, but in my opinion, it all comes down to large amount of unnecessary suffering.

We are currently in the midst of the archery season, and deer hunters armed with bow and arrows are busy on all sides of our preserve, trying their best to take down their hoofed prey. Two days ago, I came across one of the casualties of this "sport"; it involved a very young deer that was born just this past spring. She had a deep wound on her shoulder where evidently, an arrow had struck and then fell out. The wound wasn't bleeding anymore, but the area around it looked to be infected. The fawn herself appeared very sick and weak. She was laying down on a small island in one of our beaver ponds. I surmised that she was probably chased by predators and sought refuge in the pond. Once she reached the island, she likely just collapsed from exhaustion.
The wounded doe stands on a small island in the beaver pond
When the fawn saw me, she didn't attempt to run away, but just barely lifted up her head. In cases like this, rehabilitation is not usually a viable option. Very young fawns can be dealt with, but one of this age is most often beyond that type of assistance. All consideration of rehabilitation was academic anyhow, since it was unlikely that the deer could be gotten off of the island. The best I could do was to keep tabs on the poor thing, and see if her situation changed. The following afternoon, she was still there on the island. When I came by, she awkwardly stood up and looked at me nervously, but still didn't attempt to make for the shore. It was beginning to get dark and I had to leave but I vowed to check on her the following day.
Another Doe heads down the trail towards me
The next morning, she was still in the same place and not looking any better. It had been another cold night, and a thin ice was covering the pond. Unfortunately, the ice was too thin to support either of us. The fawn was alert and kept her head up when I was there, but didn't try to stand up.
Deer communicate with each other with gestures like this one that mimics grooming 
As I walked away from the pond and into the meadow, I saw another deer coming toward me from up the trail. I thought that this could be just what the fawn needed; seeing another deer –probably an acquaintance, might be provide the incentive she needed to leave the island. I did my best to act and look as non threatening as possible, so the approaching deer wouldn't turn and run the other way. In my experience, the best way to accomplish this is by acting in a manner similar to the deer. This means bowing down to look like I'm browsing on trail side plants, occasionally nodding by head in the deer's direction, and even pretending to scratch. Sometimes the method actually works and luckily, this was one of those times. The deer, which was a young doe, continued to casually wander in my direction. She made her way past me and continued toward the pond where the other deer was. I had retreated away from the pond by this point, in order to insure that I didn't upset their interaction. So consequently, I'm not sure what happened next. All I do know is that when I returned to the pond several hours later, the fawn was finally off of the island, and nowhere to be seen.
Sometimes deer survive their wounds only to die during the course of the winter
Though I think it unlikely that the young deer will recover from the wounds inflicted on it by some incompetent and quite possibly nearsighted hunter, but at least in the short term, the animal is no longer stranded and alone. It will be able to experience the companionship of its own kind, if only for a short time longer.

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