All photos by Eloise Clark
Brass ring cutting into doe's ankle
DFG Biologist David Casady carefully cuts the ring off
Marj Davis, Fawn Rescue, cleans and bandages the wound
Back to business with one of her fawns
In early spring, far back in the hills of Kenwood, a lovely, healthy doe gave birth to twin fawns. That summer Fawn Rescue was notified by concerned neighbors who saw the doe with a wide metal band caught firmly around her left front ankle. She had stepped into a pile of discarded miscellaneous junk left scattered, with no thought given to the variety of wildlife that wander through the area in search of food, water, and shelter. Although in constant pain, this young doe managed to care for her young fawns and they flourished.
By fall, when cold, wet weather settled in, her leg began to swell both under and over the metal ring. The skin opened and infection seeped in. The doe somehow continued to stay on her feet, but she was finally in such pain that she held her foot tightly against her body, and licked and shook the aching leg. She needed help soon or circulation would be cut off and she would lose her foot or die of infection. Her natural instinct to survive prevented us from approaching close enough to tranquilize her and remove the crippling ring.
Many calls were made locally, and throughout the county, asking for ideas, or help. We explored many options without results. It became clear that the only logical method was to tranquilize her from a distance. However, because dart guns are equipped to use a controlled substance, state law prohibits most organizations from using this method of capture. Finally, the right contacts were reached at the California Department of Fish and Game, and they agreed to help us, and they, in turn, could collect important statistical data from this healthy deer for an upcoming project.
Twice, two wildlife biologists arrived in the wee hours of the morning to set up in a secluded spot from where they could dart this doe. She sensed danger and didn't come by on either of those days until after the DFG crew was gone. She couldn't know we were there to help her, not to hurt her. She survives by instinct and was wary. We are predators, and she must not be led to believe that humans are her friends. We are not.
The third attempt by DFG must work. She would soon die without help. Her fawns still needed her. Finally, on his third trip out, the doe slowly hobbled into the area where the specialist was set up. One chance was all he would get. These guns cannot be reloaded quickly, it takes time and skill. The solution must be measured according to the animal's weight and the dart must enter the rump muscle. Death, or crippling, can result from poor judgment. The biologist was able to get a clear shot and his aim was true. This dart hit directly where it must go. She was startled and ran, but not far in her condition. Once she was unconscious they hobbled the doe and tied a hood over her eyes. She was carried to a level spot, placed on a tarp and covered with blankets to keep her from becoming chilled. Next came the difficult and exacting job of cutting off the metal ring. This thick, chrome-plated brass band was over an inch wide. The biologist searched for a spot on the ankle where the cutting tool could be slipped under the ring without damage to the leg.
Once the ring was off Fawn Rescue's part began. The wound needed to be cleaned, scrubbed, and flushed, and all infection, necrotic flesh and hair removed. Medications were given, and a dressing applied to keep the wound clean and dry, but loose enough to fall off within a few days. Her normal temperature assured us that the infection had not spread.
When DFG biologists sedate a wild animal they must stay close by until it has fully recovered from the sedative. This doe's recovery took nearly five hours. A full day's work for the dedicated biologists and to all of us who had any part in her rescue. As she slowly awoke the doe struggled to stand. Suddenly she stood solidly, then loped away into the brush to freedom. It gave us great joy to know that the metal ring, which she had somehow endured since summer, would no longer be cutting painfully into her flesh. Within three days, the doe returned to the site of her capture and resumed her daily routine with her fawns.
We urge each of you to clean up those trash piles. Fence in, or cover, any potentially harmful objects. This small effort will be one giant step toward preserving our native wildlife.
Completely recovered and pregnant