One early spring morning, as my friend hiked in the Sonoma hills, he heard a piercing scream. Startled, Tom looked up in the direction of the alarming sound. There, overhead he saw a Golden Eagle carrying in its talons a small struggling animal. The hiker watched in awe as the bird lost its grip and dropped a seven-pound fawn from a height of approximately thirty feet. Luckily, her fall was broken by a small bush, which prevented her from crashing directly onto the hard earth. Tom rushed home with the badly injured fawn and immediately called Fawn Rescue. I thought surely I had heard wrong when he shouted into the phone, "A fawn was just dropped by a bird! Come quickly! Hurry!"
I rushed this tiny doe, near death, directly to my vet, who aggressively treated her for severe head-trauma and swelling. In shock, she gasps for breath. Her right eye protrudes, she is totally blind, but we know that once the pressure is off her sight may return. There is upper-lung damage, a rasping deep within her chest as she tries to breathe. X-rays show no broken bones. Tonight is crucial. She will either respond to treatment or go into a coma and die.
Back at Fawn Rescue, I place her in a baby playpen to prevent further injury and surround her with heating pads to prevent chilling. She curls into the warmth. I prop up her sternum and tuck towels firmly around her tiny body to enable her to breathe air into her damaged lungs. Her neck is weak; her heads flops uncontrollably and must be supported with towels. I give her electrolytes during the night. By morning she still lives, but her neck and head are badly swollen. She cannot nurse, but swallows, so I continue to feed her every two hours with a syringe. Although seriously injured and helpless she remains alert and fully aware.
Later that day she holds her head up for a few seconds and I feel she will live. Her front legs are limp and useless. She is unable to stand, but determined to try. Her neck tilts so badly that her right eye faces up toward the ceiling. Each day this tiny female struggles to overcome this massive neurological damage. As I massage her spindly legs, she attempts to stand. When I hold her body over my knees, she pushes and tries to put weight on her legs to balance. I am amazed at the courage of this small doe.
She wants, and needs, to nurse. I offer her the nipple each time I feed her, and then switch to a small syringe. She gradually learns to control her tongue and begins nursing from her bottle. This natural sucking gives her great comfort and helps with her healing. Finally, on the seventh day after her injury, her eyesight returns. As I kneel beside her, she looks directly at me, clear-eyed, then at the bottle of warm milk in my hand. She moves her head in that direction.
As the days pass, this tiny creature, determined to live, shows incredible improvement. Slowly, she lifts her head and holds it straight. The daily massage prevents her muscles from becoming atrophied. With no balance, her equilibrium gone, she slides her body to the side of the pen and forces herself upright while leaning against it. Her fragile legs wobble as she stands. She falls and gets up again. Each time, as she stands for longer intervals, she looks so proud, so satisfied with her tremendous accomplishment. When she becomes well enough to stand solidly I carry her outside to join her own species in their wooded enclosure. This is the best therapy of all and being with other fawns lifts her spirits. Daily, she thrives, racing and flipping in the air with the joy of being alive.
Although hungry eagle babies were deprived of their meal, surely no one could deny this undaunted fawn her right to live. That's how it works in our predatory/prey world. Some win, some lose. The klutzy eagle lost her grip and a one-week-old fawn was given a second chance at life. But Tom has reported that he now often sees the adult eagle with her two young eaglets soaring gracefully overhead.