Town Deer

The smoke from the wildfires in the BC interior is still thick in the air way down here on Vancouver Island. I keep trying to get the redness of the sun to show but it doesn’t come out in the finished photo. I must be doing something wrong or maybe I need a filter to get the red colour to show. I tried taking a picture of a red geranium and it was bright red, but the sun? No dice.

That smoky day, I was driving along in downtown Comox and noticed a doe and her fawn at the edge of the golf course parking lot. I’m always a sucker for baby animals so I took this picture of the deer. I had mixed feelings about them being in town. It’s a modern day phenomenon that many deer now live in town, but they do have a hard time avoiding dogs, finding food, avoiding traffic, and even avoiding people who might do them harm (yes, they are out there too).

I didn’t notice until I uploaded this photo that the doe has a lump in front of her shoulder. It could be an injury from a pellet gun, or she may have been poked by a branch.  Any number of other mishaps may have befallen her. I think it will heal eventually, but in the meantime she will have to live with that discomfort.

Don’t stray too far, my little one,

I’m keeping watch for you.

Most people in this town are kind,

But some have mean streaks too.

 

Stay by my side and eat your greens,

They’re hard enough to find.

Most gardeners get annoyed with us,

But others do not mind.

 

Watch out for dogs who like to chase,

Be careful of the cars.

If neither of them injure us,

We’ll thank our lucky stars.

 

Look sweet and mild into the lens,

The lady sure can gawk.

But then she’ll put us on her blog, 

And folks will say we rock.

 

 

 

Oh, Deer, What Big Ears You Have!

Don’t bother. They’re too far away.

But the camera will bring them in.

Not worth it.

We’ll see.

dscn6735Okay, I had to admit they were too far away for good clear pictures, but the alternative was no pictures at all.

The mule deer buck in the photo below is saying to his lady friend, “Aw, come on. Don’t be like that! … All right, I’m sorry.”dscn6738“Did you hear that?”

“It’s nothing. Just an old lady with a camera.”dscn6742How many deer do you see? I see two. One normal one and another with two bums.dscn6745Here’s a pretty one, getting ready to leave.dscn6750She turns to say one last goodbye to me, flaps her mule-like ears and is gone.dscn6752

Deer up close

This post is in response to Pit’s questions about getting close to the deer in his yard in Texas. I’m on Vancouver Island and we have similar problems with the deer coming close because their natural habitat has been taken over. It is, strictly speaking, illegal to feed wild animals, but we feed birds all the time, and the deer in our area were so undernourished, their poor condition was enough to make a grown man cry. You could see the deer’s ribs and their fur was mottled and thin, marked all over by parasites that had taken up residence in their bodies. I said to the Captain, “You either have to shoot them and put them out of their misery, or we have to feed them.”

“Well, you can’t shoot around here, so I guess I’ll pick up some cracked corn at the feed store.”

At first I put piles of cracked corn on the grass. Then later I got some old pots and just set those out, so the corn didn’t get wasted in the grass. The deer soon got used to me as I crouched nearby while they ate. Each time they got more comfortable about me being there and finally they would eat from my hand. I’ve touched their cheeks and when the fawns were born, they brought them over and I touched their little faces. I’ve never felt fur so soft.

I know it was wrong to feed a wild animal, but these deer had nowhere to go and they were suffering, so the choice was easy. People had caused the problem, so people had to try to fix it. The next year, the deer were in much better shape. Two other neighbours farther down the road were also feeding them and it got the deer over the worst times when we had particularly harsh winters.

I haven’t fed the deer for several years now. This picture is 15 years old. But I would do it again if they looked needy.

Feeding the deer[1]

Shamed

Since the black bear came to visit a few days ago, I’ve been very nervous about letting the dogs out in the backyard.   They’re always inside during those early dawn hours and at dusk anyway, but now even more so, until I hear that the bear has been taken away or enough time has gone by that either the bear or I have died of old age.

But dogs like to be outside when the weather is fine, so I peeked out to check if the coast was clear.

First thing I saw was this deer. Oh, no! I thought. How did it get in? When did I leave the gate open? Or did it jump over the lower gate at the back of the property? Is my garden eaten? Are the fruit trees stripped? I was about to go open a gate and try to shoo the deer out when I noticed the mesh of the fence was on my side of the deer. He was in the neighbours’ yard. What a relief that was.

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The deer was quite used to people and didn’t run when I came close, talking softly to it. When it left, I let the dogs out. I figured there was no bear around today, since this is almost the very spot where the bear was the other day, and if the deer was here, the bear was not. I felt a little bit ashamed for being such a nervous coward when a defenseless deer was brave enough to walk the same ground as the bear.041a

As it turned out, the dogs were not outside very long before Emma started that fear-filled barking again, this time looking towards the other side of the property where the bear would also have access. Today we’re all hiding in the house. I’m normally quite brave about scary things – all except for spiders and bears.

Glimpses

While driving along a country road, we saw these mule deer and stopped to admire them. The one on the left must be Frida Kahlo’s brother, judging by the unibrow.  The other didn’t want to move lest he disturb his little beanie that was balanced between his antlers.DSCN4142

I said, “Hi. You guys look so amazing. Would you mind if I take your picture?” but they stuck their noses in the air and said, “Sorry, girl, we’ve got to run now. Make an appointment with our agent.” And this glimpse is all I got of them. Even so I had to hurry to document their departure.

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We drove on a little farther and in a very short time, the sun tried the same trick on us. This was the last glimpse we had of the sun for that October day. But I heard it say, as it waved goodbye, “See you tomorrow!”

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Life Abounds on the Prairie

After a particularly windy night in Montana, I step out of my travel trailer and admire the morning sky. The air is  chilly, but fresh and clean. I fill my lungs and marvel at the invigorating purity of the air. As the sun’s rays break over the horizon with the promise of a new day, they cast a pink glow on the clouds and blend them into a marvel of lavender.DSCN4211

I walk at the edges of the harvested fields, not wanting to disturb the land. It seems though, that the deer and coyotes didn’t mind leaving their  tracks behind. Whitetailed deer and mule deer both inhabit this part of the state. I’m not an expert tracker so I couldn’t tell  what kind of deer it might have been. I only know that at one time, a small deer and a large one walked there. A coyote also passed that way. I wonder if it was close to the same time and what the coyote was  after.  The bigger deer must have been running, because his tracks were deeper and gouged up more of the soil. If only we could know the story.DSCN4214

Crossing the fields, I come across many interesting sights. Sage grows wild here. I pick up a stem of it and breathe in the medicinal sagey scent. Flowers bloomed over great expanses earlier in the season. A few remain, but most have gone to seed. Some of these seed pods are nasty burrs that stick to the dogs’ coats. I know what I’ll be doing when I get back “home” to the trailer. Picking burrs! Poor dogs.

The cottonwood trees look rich in their autumn dress. Black and gold! What could be classier? The leaves shiver in the breeze, making a continuous and soothing “shh-shh-shh” sound.These majestic trees are like sentinels watching over the prairie.

As I walk towards a marshy area, an owl glides past me, having given up its hiding place in the shrubbery. It isn’t too far away from this collection of pheasant droppings. Perhaps it is aware that this is where the pheasant was spending the night and he was hoping to close in on him. Or maybe he was after something smaller, like the rabbit I saw bolting over the hill a few minutes earlier, or the sharptail grouse that cackled as if someone had told a joke as it flew to another gully.

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I am surprised to find a turtle shell nearly a foot long, near the cattail (bullrush) marsh. But more surprising is the number of pheasants that fly up from the cover of the cattails when Emma (English cocker spaniel) goes tearing through there. I suppose the pheasants felt safe there, knowing they could hear danger approaching. Cattails rustle noisily when an animal passes between them. I would bet that in last night’s wind, many animals found cover in this marsh. It must have been a scary night for them out here, but what a beautiful scene to wake up to in the morning.

Dog Trains Owner

My neighbours across the street have been trying to get shrubs to grow along the edge of their property. I say “trying” because it is a challenge to grow anything with leaves in an area inhabited by starving town deer.

I sympathize because for the past 23 years I’ve been trying to do the same. I had to put a fenced compound in the backyard if I wanted to grow any roses or fruit trees. Even a hedge at the property line was impossible. The deer were hungry.

Recently, a greenway was forced on us, even though it is a detour of the original walking path. Even with the deer eating most of my gardening efforts, I did not like the idea of fencing my yard. I’ve had to give in though, and we now have a fence.

I could handle the deer, but not the dogs running at large. People come from far and wide. They don’t walk in their own neighbourhood, but drive here to walk their dogs. As soon as they see a stand of trees, they unleash their dogs to play “Born Free,” allowing them to tear through everyone’s yard, and do their business whenever the urge strikes them. Some dog owners even pick up after their dogs and then fling the plastic bags into the shrubbery in front of the homes along the path.

Below you see our neighbours’ continued brave attempt at preventing the deer from eating their shrubs. The little bag of blood meal seems to keep the deer away. But they are paying the price inflicted on us by the dog walkers. Many of their shrubs have been attacked by dogs who rip off the bags of blood meal. Where are the dog owners? I met one today.

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You see in the photo below where the path is. This is where the dogs and their owners are meant to walk. There is even an untamed grassy area where a dog might do its number and the owner can pick up. Why would a dog walker allow her dog to run over to the shrubs on private property and watch the dog as it attacks the blood meal bag?

015I was in my front yard with my own dogs when I saw a golden retriever run over to the neighbours’ shrubs and start pulling on the branches. I walked over closer and called to the dog’s owner. I saw then that she had him on a long retractable leash, but was allowing him to do whatever he wanted. I thought I’d just watch to see what she would do. Nothing! She did nothing at all. Only watched.

“Why are you letting him do that?” I asked her.

“I’m not letting him.” She turned her attention to the dog and pulled on the leash. The dog wouldn’t budge. He had his jaws locked on the blood meal bag and was not letting go.

The woman pulled and pulled. She begged him to come away.

I said, “The people have put those bags of blood meal on to discourage the deer and I know they’re upset that some dogs have been eating them.”

She gave me a look, and then let out a big sigh. She pulled a bag out of her pocket and took out a doggie treat. The dog let go of the shrub to take the treat and the woman dragged him away.

Now, who has learned a lesson?

The woman seems to have already known that she can get the dog to let go of something by offering him a treat. Do you think she’ll do it again? Yes.

The dog has learned that he can do what he wants and be rewarded for his disobedience. Do you think he’ll do it again? Yes.

The nosy interfering neighbour has learned that some people should not own dogs, and that her day would have been better if she had not tried to look out for her neighbours. Will she do it again? Yes.

So it seems that life will go on without any changes, at least until the neighbours also give up and build a fence.