May 19, 2012

Deer ordeal



This week we were transferred a call about a female black-tailed deer (a subspecies of mule deer) that had, evidently, jumped over a fence from a hilltop property and into an adjacent yard, downslope. There, she gave birth to two fawns.

Unfortunately, though, she and her young ones were trapped. Not only would she have a tough time clearing the fence, but even if she managed to, there was no way for her fawns to follow.

Her freedom was not the only concern, however. On either side of the small residential lot, dogs patrolled the fence line, barking and trying to dig through to get to the deer. 




Also, the hillside had been mowed recently, leaving little room for the animals to hide, and reducing their supply of nutrient rich grasses. The property owners also admitted to feeding the doe apples - a huge No No.

The doe and her fawns had to be freed.

Here is Rebecca's personal account of what transpired:

Going into this, Duane and I had no idea what a difficult time we would have, especially given the report we received from the organization that had initially responded. According to their account, both the RP (Reporting Party) and the land owners were very concerned for the welfare of the deer. It turns out, they were overly concerned.  
We began by looking at a map to help us figure out the direction the doe had come from and, therefore, would be most apt to leave. We also wanted to plot the safest course for her to get back 'home'. 
Even though we were in the middle of a residential subdivision, wildland was only blocks away - maybe 1000 yards, and deer were commonly seen roaming the neighborhood's quiet culdesacs. 
With a plan in mind, we contacted the RP to make sure they were alright with the idea of us opening up the fence and herding the deer family back onto their land. Their property was quite large, with lots of cover, plus the deer could leave when they wanted to. 
Next, we made contact with resident where the deer was entrapped. It was late afternoon when we knocked on their door. We gently introduced the idea of allowing the doe and her young to leave their yard - either through the front gates or allowing us to unbolt their chain link fence, temporarily. 
After the door closed on us mid-sentence, we had no choice but to alert the authorities - the California Department of Fish and Game.
Deer are considered Big Game, and they are strictly managed by the Department, not just because they are hunted, but because they are extremely dangerous to deal with. To rescue or rehabilitate big game requires special authorization from the agency, so we were required to keep the region's Captain apprised of the situation. 
Additionally, the deer being entrapped and the land owners resistance to freeing them bordered on possession. It is illegal to possess a wild animal in the State of California without proper authorization from the Department.
In less than 15 minutes, one of the local wardens arrived on scene to take over. We were there to assist as needed, but it would be their call as to the final outcome. 
After speaking with the warden, the residents conceded to the idea of allowing the doe and her twins to leave through the back fence, but they would not allow Duane or me on their property. 
Duane and I accessed the fence line from above, through the RP's property. As we approached, the doe became nervous, understandably - we were in her 'safe zone'. Also, the land owners refused to go inside their home, which caused the deer more angst. 
Duane swiftly removed the bolts holding up the chain link, and spread it open. We backed away and alerted the warden that it was all clear. 
Ideally, Duane and I would have driven back down to the other property to control the amount of 'pressure' (predator presence) on the doe. They are skittish animals and panic easily. If threatened, prey animals will do anything to escape, even if it kills them. 
We believe we could have encouraged the doe to gather her young and leave quietly. It may have taken an hour, but it would have been best. Unfortunately, the resident would not hear of it. So, all of our hands were tied. 
Duane and I backed away from the fence, leaving the doe plenty of room to leave, unthreatened, while the warden applied a small amount of pressure. Finally, she bolted out the opening, leaving her fawns behind. 
The fawns were collected, one by one, and placed outside the fence. Unfortunately, there wasn't much we could do to oversee the reunion - the repair of the fence had to come first. Under the watchful eye of the 'lady of the house', Duane and I re-attached the chain link. 
By the time we were finished with the fence - leaving it in better condition than it had been, it was nearly dark. Although we didn't actually see the doe with her fawns, we felt confident she would find them. 
Today, we sent one of our experienced responders back to check on the situation. She did not find either fawn, but did locate the doe, peacefully bedded down in cool shade. 
For now, we believe the family is intact and doing well. We will check back on Monday.  
A huge THANK YOU! to the Department of Fish and Game for their timely response to this situation and for their ongoing efforts to protect and preserve our State's wildlife!