Normally, fawns are silent creatures. Great fear will cause them to give out a sharp, piercing cry of terror. This unusual cry, not often heard, is extremely disturbing and enervating to hear. But, as unsettling as this cry can be, the sound of a newborn, calling for the doe that cannot come, is the saddest sound of all.
A newborn fawn was found along side the highway, curled against the side of her dead mother. I brought her back to Fawn Rescue, examined her injuries, then, not knowing how long she had lain waiting for help, I offered her a bottle of warm formula mix. Even thought the nipple was strange, she could smell the milk and made a feeble attempt to suck the much needed nourishment from the bottle, After several weak starts, she did surprisingly well and drank her fill.
The extreme emotional shock of being removed from her mother, the unfamiliar surrounds and sounds, the transport, the unaccustomed human contact, all combined to weaken her in both body and spirit. At times, a tiny fawn will shut down at this point and die of stress. It was important for this orphaned fawn to join others of her own species as quickly as possible. She needed an incentive to live.
| I carried her down to the small fawn pen, closed the gate
behind us and set her on the ground. Three young fawns, near her age,
came running to greet her. This traumatized little doe completely
ignored them all and staggered weakly toward the fence where she could
see down into the deep woods. A deer trail wound up the hill to the pen
where it turned to follow the fence line. Occasionally, wild deer walk
by to touch the enclosed fawns through the fence. This newly born fawn
put her tiny head against the fence and began to call in a soft,
murmuring voice that could scarcely be heard. Just a whisper, a small
plaintive sigh, calling, calling. I walked to her side and sat beside
her. I dared not touch her. Never glancing in my direction, she
continued to give out this low, grieving, heartbroken plea for a mother
who could not respond. A doe that could not come. This call was the
saddest sound I have ever heard. A sound of longing, grief and yearning.
A lamentation. A call of mourning. The fawn finally lay down close
against the fence and drifted into an exhausted sleep. I did not disturb
her until feeding time for the others. She looked up as they ran for the
bottle, then turned to call again.
For three days she stood, forlorn and wistful, gazing down into the forest, softly calling at intervals. I went to her, fed her, then let her be, as she rejected my nurturing attempts and struggled to be free of the human touch. The other fawns nudged, dashed by, ate and behaved as fawns will do. Slowly she began to accept her new companions and her new home. Gradually she adjusted to her new way of life.
Photos by Marjorie Davis