Friday, July 15, 2005

ENV: Not-Really-a-Cat-Friday

Here's a story i've been wanting to tell for a couple of weeks, and tonight i happened to get some good pictures as illustration . . . so here's a tale of two deer.

Every summer, because i run this little wildlife education program of sorts (actually i've turned most of it over to youngsters -- but i still am lord over it), we seem to get orphans and strays and youngsters the neighbors and locals and game wardens find.

Last summer we got the standard annual fawn from a neighbor. While most of these should never be touched -- mom's around, i promise -- this particular critter had been covered in fire ants, and probably was saved from death (outside of the fact i could make an argument that it's all a part of life, i reserve a little empathy for victims of invasives like fire ants).

So i bottle-raised another fawn. Meanwhile another neighbor was raising a fawn as well -- actually their labrador retriever was raising it. Both of these fawns were free-ranging dudes, never caged or enclosed. Ours slept in the flowerbed next to the office, but had no trouble finding me for feeding time.

After the summer was over, and all the attention lavished by our hundreds of kids disappeared, our fawn weaned himself, soon was showing up only every third day or so and then in late August, just vanished. I figured he'd joined the herd (a couple of hundred deer, about 1-to- 3 native White-tailed Deer and free-ranging exotic Axis Deer that use the property here).

Between our fawn and the neighbors' i never knew for sure what i had -- i suspected mine was a White-tail and theirs an Axis, but just wasn't certain. One of our security guards (an off-duty sheriff's deputy who'd raised many, many fawns himself, wasn't sure either -- everytime we thought we had a clue, something negated it).

So, that was the last i saw of "Joey" until this summer.

Then, in mid-June, while the kids were laid out on sleeping bags watching an outdoor movie, a 120-lb spike Axis buck just walked right into the midst of them. While there was some panic, the deer acted like nothing was amiss. Staff had to literally push him out into the field.

Well, because of that instant of familiarity i figured Joey had returned. He's hung around ever since, though mostly he stays a couple of feet away from everyone.

Then, about a week ago, another security guard asked me about "this tame buck". When he shined his light on it, it was a White-tailed spike. I walked over put my hand out and it immediately started licking my hand and allowed me to pet it at will -- something most White-tails i've raised won't let you do after a while. So maybe Joey was a White-tail after all.

Then up walked the Axis. They've been hanging together the last few days.

Tonight, the security guard was able to entice the Axis with a bunch of leaves and then was able to pet it as well -- and i got pictures. So here's one of our babies, who's to know for sure which one (and it's followed by pictures of the sunset and rainbow this evening after some needed and welcomed rain).

As always be sure to check in on the menagerie at The Friday Ark at The Modulator

Axis Deer, Cervus axis


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