The baby fawn trapped in the mud hole
is reunited with her mother.
Photos by Marjorie Davis
Just as the man finished digging a two-foot deep post-hole, the sky opened, the rains came teeming down, and all work stopped abruptly. Late the next afternoon the sun shone brightly. Time to get back to fence-building. The man picked up the heavy wood post to drop it into the hole soaked with heavy clay-like mud. Luckily, just then something caught his eye. "Hold on, what is that?" he thought. Bracing the post against the brush, he stooped far over to check the tiny curled bit of fur lying still in the mud-hole. A wee head turned up toward him, eyes wide with fear. A fawn? Here? Condos, pushed tightly together, covered every inch of this once prime wildlife habitat. Seldom now, was a deer or any wild creature seen in this man's back yard. "Come to think of it, I did see a doe pass through recently," he remembered. The man ran to his neighbor, seeking help. In response to their call, Doug, a volunteer driver, and I were on our way. Dinner, and the hot cornbread just removed from the oven, could wait.
Nearby, a creek, filled with spring rain, still attracted wildlife to the area. This doe's ancestors had traveled toward this same stream each night before bedding down with their fawns. These creatures of habit will continue to follow these same paths until all access is blocked.
Once the neighbor lifted the fawn out of the muddy hole it laid quietly until we reached its side. Covered with a thick layer of gray mud, hypothermic, hungry, and highly stressed, she lay with her head touching the cold, damp earth. As I picked her up she whimpered, then curled against me for warmth – too young to have learned to fear man. The owner pointed to fresh, moist deer pellets close to the hole where the fawn was trapped. The doe knew where her fawn lay, but could do nothing to help her out of this deep, narrow hole.
Although we sensed the doe remained nearby, it was necessary to bring her baby back to Fawn Rescue for immediate treatment. She was too weak to nurse and we had no way to estimate how long she may have been without nourishment. The clinging, sticky mud must be removed quickly. Her body temperature was dangerously low. "But will you bring her back?" the man asked as we walked toward the truck. "Only if she recovers well within the next day," I replied. "The doe's milk will begin to dry up and then she will not continue her search. I'll let you know."
Even with her heavy coat of mud, this tiny female weighed in at only five pounds. Maybe two days old? Because of her weakened condition the fawn reluctantly swallowed only a small bit of warm nourishment. Then the long, careful job of removing the mud became the most immediate problem. As she lay on a heating pad covered with a soft blanket, I began to soak and clean one small spot of her body at a time with warm water and dry her with warm towels. She tolerated it only for a short time, then became weary and distressed. I let her rest, then continued to clean her each time I offered her another small amount of nourishment. I hoped the mud would crumble as it dried, but this clay stuck stubbornly to her hair. Her body warmed quickly and she soon showed signs of returning strength. She called softly to her mom.
By morning this amazing little female stood strongly on her feet, eyes alert, head held high. Ready to be returned to the only world she knew. I fed her, for she might have a long wait. I bundled her up, placed her in the Fawnmobile, and we went toward home and mom.
Back at the site, I rounded the corner of the wood fence and stepped into the yard. She cried and kicked in protest like a normal wild fawn. At once I saw the doe hiding in the brush against the far fence, anxiously waiting for her fawn. She leaped up to run. The fawn screamed again loudly, causing the doe to quickly turn and head determinedly toward us. I set the fawn down and moved back to watch as the doe walked eagerly up to her fawn. They smelled and touched. The doe nudged the fawn, then turned to move swiftly toward the trees and cover, with her baby leaping close behind her through the tall grass.