Poor dear

I happened to look out the window last night while a car was going past and saw her illuminated in headlights. She was standing in the grass across the street, facing our house. Standing isn’t the right word, exactly. It was more like a wide-stanced lean, her head and neck bowed forward. Her whole posture was zombie-like, though I’m glad I didn’t think of that last night. When a truck stopped in front of her and turned on its flashers, my husband put on his coat and headed outside to see what was what.

I don’t really know she was a she or how to tell aside from looking for antlers. She didn’t have those, nor external injuries like the end of an arrow sticking from her midsection like one buck that used to come by our old house in the Poconos. Once or twice, my husband crept slowly, cautiously, towards him to, well, I don’t know what exactly. He wanted a miracle. He wanted to grab the arrow and pull it out, I guess, but every time he got close the buck ran off and a week or so later stopped coming around.

The first deer I ever saw was mounted above my aunt and uncle’s fireplace. My uncle shot it and at Christmas time they hung a big red bow where its throat would have been. I felt the same warm affection towards his disembodied head as I did their full-bodied golden retriever. In the finished side of their basement, my brother and I played billiards or some terrible kid version which mostly involved liberal application of chalk to pool cues. When all the cues were overchalked, we crept over to the unfinished side to peek in the closet where my uncle kept his bloodied deer dressing clothes.

I’ve never hunted. I’ve never eaten venison. I’ve eaten plenty of chicken and cow and pig and once I tried meatballs made from crocodile. I have no objection to eating animals. Sometimes I wish I did and then push the thought from my head like hanging up on a salesperson so I can sit down to dinner in peace.

When we first moved to the Poconos, we fed the deer. Everyone told us not to, but we couldn’t see the harm. They were so skinny, so hungry! All the lower tree branches and small shrubs were stripped clean by late fall. When I walked past a window in winter, their eyes locked mine, pleading, I swear. We started buying huge bags of corn at a feed supply store and spread it in the backyard in generous scoops. It didn’t take long for word to get around.

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At first we felt like Snow White. They came in polite, smallish bunches and it warmed our hearts to see the yearlings graze. Then the big bucks came. They chased the smaller ones away and stood on their hindquarters and gnashed antlers, pulverizing the corn with their angry hooves. We had made them territorial and wild, so we conceded our idiocy and stopped feeding them. I stopped making eye contact from the windows unless I was feeling especially firm.

Twice my husband hit deer while driving. The first time, the deer caused serious damage to his truck – broken headlights, a cracked radiator, lots of busted thingamajigs. It perished in  a ditch. The deer, I mean. Thankfully my husband wasn’t hurt, though that’s a real risk when you hit a deer. The second time, a deer glanced off his driver’s side mirror and did several thousand dollars worth of damage and kept on running. (Side question: if a very old car is only worth, say, $3,000 at trade-in, how is it possible that one measly side mirror and headlamp cost the same to replace?)

I’ve seen this happen before, this miraculous display of ballet and invincibility. Once I was behind a car that clipped a deer we both must have been hypnotized by as it flew in from the shoulder. I know why they say reindeer can fly. It’s the only way I can describe the particular way this deer t-boned into traffic. It was fluid and graceful and fearless. Once the deer hit the car in front of me, it sort of stumble-tumbled and resumed flying across the remaining stretch and disappeared into tall grass without losing a full beat.

They don’t always make it, though.

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As I write this, we have a deer carcass in the grass across the street. Several concerned neighbors joined my husband last night and tried to coax the deer away from the road. She bled from her nose, leading some of us to come up with half-assed theories and diagnoses. One neighbor prodded it with a property marker and the deer just sort of hobbled in a circle and resumed that awful hanging lean. A police officer arrived and once everyone scattered back home, he took out his service pistol. I was sitting up in bed when I heard the gunfire. I thought I would feel relief but just felt sad.

In spring, we might see fawns if we’re lucky. They spend more time in the woods than on suburban lawns. They have small white spots on their back that resemble speckled sunshine on a forest floor. If you ever see a baby deer on its own, don’t attempt to move it. It’s not stranded. The mother stays away from her fawns during the day so predators won’t be attracted by her scent. Baby deer don’t have a scent. Even when they wander the woods and bleat a pathetic, heart-breaking cry when it’s feeding time, please don’t gather it in your arms and carry it up the hill like you just won the cutest, most terrified prize ever.

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I’d hoped to find this great photo of a fawn I know we have somewhere and the disembodied buck above the fireplace, which I’m pretty sure we don’t have anywhere, but this and the above deer-in-snow pictures are the best I can do.
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20 thoughts on “Poor dear

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  1. No question your dear are beautiful and pretty cute too, but like all bush dwellers finding themselves ever-closer to cities, they become a danger.
    A danger to people, but also they put themselves in danger.
    Our own menagerie supports such an array of beasts, that we feel like the intruders.
    The hairs on my neck stood up when you began the story, I thought for a moment you may have had a real life -un-dead zombie. It would be scratching at the door and be followed by thousands of teenagers, finally able to embrace

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  2. ….. Had a a real life un-dead zombie. It would be scratching at the door and be followed by thousands of teenagers finally able to verify their existance.
    Sorry about the text here – my fingers are still jittery from the creepy thought.B

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The problem when our “civilisation” comes to clash with animals in the wild – they just don’t get our issues. Much less of an issue in the UK where we have pretty much no real wilderness as such and are so built up we’ve moved all the wildlife on years ago. I did nearly hit a stag years ago in Dorset coming across an open common land where they graze. Luckily I wasn’t going fast… he was enormous and just glared at me with a “This is my land fool, get off it” look.

    I don’t eat game – I even have started to question my eating fish. I’m happy to eat meat since we are designed to do so from a physiological point of view – look at our teeth etc. However given where we are as a society eating meat that only exists at all to be eaten I’m ok with. Chickens, cows, pigs etc. only look like they do and exists as we manage them as a food source. Given how our population has exploded so much should we still take from the wild to eat like game and fish? I’m increasingly thinking we shouldn’t

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    1. Deer overpopulation is an issue around here. Even with hunting, there are too many, though I don’t think they starve. As far as freshwater catches, there are restrictions on commercial fishing and crabbing. And yet, it would seem much harder to manage and control. You bring up an excellent point.

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      1. Is it deer overpopulation or human overpopulation? I think from a pure nature point of view we have so influenced the world and the environment now virtually all wildlife lives in a man made or man managed environment … possible exceptions being the poles.

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  4. We have twin babies right now. I love them and their innocence and certainly understand and appreciate the phrase “doe-eyed.” I keep hoping that they will find a way to defy nature and frolic with the fox babies on the other side of the creek.

    My husband and son hunt and I have mixed feelings…and so do they. My son got his first deer last year (bow) and he never admitted it to daddy, but broke down to me after. I know it’s why his bow has stayed in its case despite daddy’s prodding to go practice. I’ve taken wildlife and conservation classes and understand population management. That said, I’m completely cool if my son decides to leave the bow put away forever…

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    1. I remember bawling my eyes out the first time I caught a fish. Broke my heart, never fished again. That’s cool that your son opened up to you about it. He may change as he gets older or always remember what that felt like. It’s such an individual thing. It’s no different really from eating meat, and I know if I had to kill my own dinner, I’d be eating a lot of grass.

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  5. enjoyed this K – and deer meat is one of my favorites – we grew up with it because a family friend always had extra. I loved all the little different angles you hinted at with different sentences – and different takes on deer in our culture. still has me pondering!!

    and like how you write stuff like the eye contact – tips about not touching the babes that look left alone – and this:
    “Sometimes I wish I did and then push the thought from my head like hanging up on a salesperson so I can sit down to dinner in peace.”
    ha!
    I once read a bumper sticker that said “if God did not want us to eat meat – why did he make animals taste so good” something like that!
    and well, sorry you guys have had auto damage twice – last year our neighbor (Karen) walked all the way down to us when we were getting out of the car and told us that she thinks she had run over a deer – not real damage but there wee hairs and “stuff” under her bumper – but she was letting us know that on the narrow road towards sour hose is where it was – and well, I feel like I owe her extra goodies on her plat this holiday (ha!) because later that month we slowed down and saw deer in the brush a few times – feel grateful for her telling us that.

    on closing, this cartoon was on Terrierman’s blog this week – and had to share it here… 🙂

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    1. Usually there’s no mistaking when you hit a deer. They can do real damage, so best to drive cautiously in certain areas, especially during dusk. They often travel in herds, so I always slow when one crosses the road. I’ve heard other advice, such as turning off headlights if you see a deer in the road, or accelerating before impact to force it over the car, but I wonder 1) if those really work and 2) who thinks to actually do these things in a split second.

      I would like to try venison some time. Like you, I think, I am a meat eater and don’t expect that will change.

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      1. yeah, that is what we thought – that if she hit a deer she would know it! maybe is was an opossum or small rodent that she heard thudding and then left hair behind – lol – but we did see many deer that following couple weeks – and I hate driving down that narrow road and go slow – but went even slower – and I heard about the lights off too – but you are right – people likely panic a bit too –

        and venison – just has to be cooked slow or it can be tough – ❤

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      1. well your post keeps coming to mind – over on the Today show they had this:

        “Cyclist Silas Patlove was enjoying a quiet Sunday ride last weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area when an unexpected obstacle suddenly blocked his path — a deer. Out of nowhere, the animal jumped the rail and slammed right into Patlove, sending him crashing to the ground. Despite the ferocity of the impact, both Patlove and the deer are fine.”

        and also guess Matt L. had a der experience – poor dear! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  6. So, I nearly got run over by a deer. Three, actually. True story. After a kid on my soccer team got a bee sting, I ran across a wooded area to my car to get the first aid kit. I heard rustling to my right, and when I turned, three deer in full sprint ran in front and behind me.

    I could have spanked one on the flank, he was so close.

    And then there was the time I thought I was alone in the woods to take care of business …

    But I digress.

    This is beautiful writing. It’s a bit of an awkward but beautiful convergence when deer and humans come together. We shouldn’t. We should stay separate, because it’s often bad when we don’t. But there’s beauty, too, in seeing something so wild and free up close.

    Your description of the fawn’s marking was exceptional.

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    1. Your story reminds me of a certain Christmas song. That must have been scary and cool all at once. I also saw a white (piebald) deer a couple of times locally, and forgot to mention that. Every time I head out in that area, I still look and hope to one day spot a magical white deer again.

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