This post was supposed to be about my triumphant return to real fishing following my fractured ankle. I was going to tell about skipping my favorite Haw River haunts in favor of a spot with easier access and easier wading (if such a thing exists on the Haw) and about how my new fly rod worked out and how I caught several 10-12 inch largemouths and especially about how much my ankle hurts right now, but in a “pain is weakness leaving the body” kind of way. It was going to be a great post. But, it all went out the window when I saw the fawn.
It really had been good to get back on the river and as I happily limped back up the easement, I spotted a small fawn begin to cross the path, perhaps 50 yards ahead of me. It stopped for a moment, on unsteady legs, peering into the deep grass on each side. Then, to my complete surprise, it took two more steps, fell over, and lay still. As I approached, I made as much noise as I could to make it aware of me, but it didn’t twitch, even as I knelt beside it. For a moment I feared it was dead, but found that it was breathing steadily, though not responsive. What to do?
The poor thing seemed frail, though I have no experience that close to a wild fawn. No doe had appeared and I could only assume that the fawn had been abandoned or separated from its mother. After some incomplete thought, I scooped the creature up in my arms and started for the truck, at which time the fawn revived and struggled weakly as I moved up the trail. Encouraged, I stopped and set it down, but held it close, still considering what to do.
How did we ever manage without cell phones? I made a quick call home to Mary to let her know what was going on and to ask her to check with the neighbors (just up the road are large animal veterinarians) and I called my friend Mike at the NC Museum of Natural Science. Like me, he was not quite sure how to proceed. The local “deer rescue” group had recently folded due to lack of funds and the Wildlife Commission seemed the likely next step. But our community, and the county around us, is already struggling with deer issues. Should we scramble to insure the safety of the fawn or just let nature take care of things, for better or worse?
As we talked, the fawn’s struggles, and lamblike bleats, gained intensity and I began to worry that in my constraints it might hurt itself or that it would expend what precious little life force it may have left. So, with Mike in agreement, or resignation, I let it go. Once free, three uncertain bounds into the deep grass, another to the woods, and it was gone.
I suspect that unless the fawn soon finds a doe willing to adopt it, it will not make it. Fortuntely, there are several new moms around. I’m not sure I could have made the difference, or if that was indeed what I should have done, but holding the small creature, calming it with my voice and touch, unsure that it would survive the day, was moving. Living here in the woods puts us up close and personal with Mother Nature and we often see firsthand how harsh she can be. Perhaps sometimes, as hard as it may be to do, it’s best to just not get in her way.