Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Big Swim

Thursday (18th), I had a few minutes before I needed to leave to pickup my cat from the vet’s office. I looked out back and Breckenridge, the Muscovy duck, was waiting by the feed bowl. That would take two minutes so I booked out back to feed him. As I stepped off the porch, I heard voices in my neighbor’s yard. I did not pay too much attention and went on down to the lake. The voices sounded more excited and I looked over to the corner of the fence that showed from behind the arbor vitae hedge just in time to see Apple appears at the corner-he is inside the fence!

Oh No!!!

He was panicked, running about and running into the fence. My neighbor whose house it is was standing up near the top of her yard, and the neighbor next door to her was standing next to the fence. He was saying, “They’ll just run into a fence until they break their neck.”

Yeah, that is helpful! I thought to myself. “Apple, it is ok, " I said softly to him, but he was terrified. “ How did he get in?” I asked.

“I don’t know!!” she yelled back.

I started moving to the gate at the fence’s middle in front of the lake; all the while, Apple was more panicked by my walking past. My neighbor, seeing me heading in that direction, remembered the gate and she excitedly told me to open it. I whole heartedly agreed with that idea. I opened the gate and Apple was now at the top of the yard. I walked up the middle and angled towards him and he ran down toward the bottom, swung around, ran towards the gate, blasted right past it, and slammed into the far side. “Yep, be careful he’ll break his neck.”

Oh so helpful!

Apple ran back , pausing at the corner to look back in my yard, and then ran up to the top of my neighbor’s yard again. I was trying to turn and see him without scarring him much more. My neighbor directed me on up into the yard and Apple ran back down and across and again hit the fence. This time he turned and ran back a little bit slower and found the gate! He darted out, launched himself through the willow fringe. SPLASH! And he was off and swimming! I ran down the yard, closed the gate, and watched him from the shore.

The lake is really just a big pond, but it is pretty big and Apple is a rather small guy. Deer are excellent swimmers. Water is a refuge for them, a way to escape. I do not know at what age a fawn can swim well, but Apple had clearly passed that age. His head held high he swam with sure strong strokes, he did not falter. I was impressed and proud of him. He swam about two thirds of the way across the lake, and he frantically looked around; the area ahead of him offered no cover. He abruptly changed tack and swam about one quarter of the length of the lake to the shore-so far for such a little fellow to swim! Crouching at the shore, he looked up the line of trees and shrubs that border two yards. He bolted up the yard disappearing into the trees. I held my breath. The road, busy with after-five traffic, was just a few yards away beyond my view. No screeching tires, no sound of impact was heard. Good…

I ran back up my yard and out the front door. I drove the long way around so I could look down the tree line to where I last saw Apple. I could not see him and he had not been hit. Hopefully, if he continued across the road he would stop and not shoot past his mommy’s boundary and get lost. Does leave scent trails for their fawns that establish their natal ground boundary. Deer have an interdigital scent gland between the two halves of their hooves. Just as his mommy laid a trail, Apple would have left a trail that hopefully his mommy could use to find him. Saving a fawn and making it to the vet’s on time- talk about twenty minutes well spent!

As his play area has dwindled with rising water, I have expected the doe to move him away, may be even rejoin the herd. Sadly, I fear this will be the time that she will move him now. If she does not move him, I dread the possibility that he will be terrified of me since I chased him; I do not want to see him wildly running off blinded by fear again and I do not want to be the cause that he flees. Whatever happens, I hope he has learned a lesson that fear and caution are good things, but out of control panic can be deadly. Time will tell.

The question remains how he got inside the fence. I think the gate is too snug for him to slip between it and the fence. A few years ago a tree fell on the fence at the exposed corner where I had seen him. When the fence was repaired, it was about a foot shorter than the rest of the fence at that corner. I suspect he saw something yummy and the fence was short enough for him to jump it there. But once over he panicked and could not find his way back. Getting yourself into something is always easier than getting out-people and fawns alike; I have, more than once, slipped up a cliff face or tree and then once there looked back and thought, “Huh, wonder how I’m going to get down…..” So, I been there and done that and did managed not to break my neck either.

The next day I stayed out of the yard until almost dark. I slipped down to the lake and dumped out the duck food. I eased out onto the dock, listening for the quiet little noises Apple makes moving about in the dense cover. Then I saw him, he was all beautiful, whole, and now nonplussed. He stood there comfortable and sure of himself browsing a few forbs growing up through the shallows. Nonchalantly, he walked away, taking his time, but wagging his tail a bit just to let me know he was a wee bit put out by my presence on the dock. To say I was relieved and ecstatic is an understatement. Not only was he still in my yard, he was not scared of me, and doing his best to show me he was not concerned in the least. So, his mommy was not ready for him to leave the fawning ground! AND, Apple must have learned he can out run me so I am not much of a threat…”poor pitiful Pam she can’t run worth squat!”

Pam Croom © 2008

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