I hate Bunnies

I absolutely hate when people bring me bunnies. They are the worst of all animals to try and save. If you get 3 out of 10 baby bunnies to the point of release, you are lucky and in the meantime it’s a depressing struggle to get them to eat. If they do eat, they will still drop dead just to piss you off.

I know this. I have watched it happen. I fed the rabbit, the rabbit was fat and sleek and after I put him back in the cage, he looked up, flipped me off with his tiny little paw and keeled over. They especially like to croak when your back is turned or you leave the room, so you come back and they are still warm, but dead.

They are wicked little buggers and if their eyes aren’t open yet should be put directly in the freezer. And yet…..people beg me to take them. They beg me to try. Sometimes they get angry or guilt me into taking them and it always ends the same. Sometimes after a day or two. Sometimes after weeks. It’s so frustrating and really depressing.

But people don’t see that. They just want to feel better because 99% of the time it is because they hit the nest with the lawn mower or their dog got into them or they just don’t want them in their yard (THAT I can understand), but they will never admit it.

So I take them and even though I know they should go in the freezer, I try……and I fail. Then every once in a while I get lucky and hit the right combination and they survive to release. Yay! now they are food for something else or they are in my garden eating MY food.

I hate bunnies. There. I said it.

But sometimes, the stars are in alignment and I have one of my domestic rabbits nursing a litter. (yes I raise and eat rabbit. I never said I hate the way they taste.) When the Gods of nature smile down on me and this happens, I take the babies (they need to be within a week or so of the domestic litter) and give them to the nursing mother.

The stars aligned this week and the Gods smiled. My best doe (my favorite because she doesn’t try to kill me every time I reach in there), only had two babies in this last batch. I already had one baby cottontail that had moved on to grass along with milk, that was the only survivor of 4. Then I got in two more that just barely had their eyes open. The domestics would open their eyes in a day or two, so I took the chance.

I put the two babies in my shirt so they would smell like me. I went out and scooped up the Doe’s babies and put them in my shirt too. I stood there for a moment thinking how glad I was that this was Brown Bunny instead of the Black-Bitch-From-Hell in the other cage. I still had all my fingers. Then I put all 4 back in the box and waited. Brown bunny sniffed them, gave them a quick lick and went about her business.


The next morning, everything was still fine and then the call came for three more. These were even younger. Shit. Could it possibly work again? When they came that evening, I stuffed them in my shirt and then slipped them in the box with the sleeping pile of fur. I had no idea if she would ignore them, throw them out or have a nice little snack. (bunnies do that sometimes, but haven’t we all had those moments when we look at our offspring and thought, “I know why cockroaches eat their young”?

She did none of the above. When I checked in the morning the older babies were washing the younger ones and all were fed and warm.

The lone baby was looking pretty sad and I knew he was about to flip me off and flip over. So I thought I had nothing to loose and took him out to the rabbitry (I think that’s a real word). He immediately jumped out of the nest box and ran to a corner. It was as if I had insulted him by putting him with the nursing babies. I didn’t have much hope as he put his face to the wall.

That was three days ago. Now all of them have their eyes open and sleep in a big pile in the straw. It looks so odd to see these two huge babies (the domestics) with the litter of tiny, odd size cottontails.

I have been spared. No struggle. No sadness. No fuss. In about
5 weeks I can take the wildlings out of the pen and release them. They will be healthy, happy and ready to raid my garden.

Sigh. Even when I win, I loose.

Last Moon Of Summer

Last night, as I was tucking everyone in for bed, I looked out and saw the last moon of summer rising above the trees.
I made a cup of tea and went out to sit on the bench by the chickens to bask in it’s rays. Like a crystal, I soaked up everything she had to offer. Sophie came up to sit next to me and I shared the blanket, It wasn’t long before the cat joined us. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave much blanket for me.

It wasn’t terribly chill and I wiggled my toes in the dew wet grass. Sipping my tea, I looked back over the summer moons. Sometimes it seems that my life, like so many ancient people, is measured by the moons.

I start to come alive with the full worm moon in spring. The snow is almost gone and I can get my hands in the dirt. The baby squirrels have not yet started falling from the trees, so I end up with whole litters of red squirrels that people find in their garage or attic or grill.

The pink moon, signals the serious start of baby season and gardening. The cold hardy crops like radishes and peas are all up and growing and I am debating if the last night of frost has passed to plant more. Babies are everywhere in the studio. Early coons, more squirrels (is there ever an end to lost squirrels?), every sort of baby you can imagine, including my favorites….the little abandoned porcupines found by mushroom hunters. I’ll get to see a lot of this moon as I get up in the middle of the night to feed babies.

I hardly get to notice the Strawberry Moon in June, other than I know that the last of the fawns will be dropped and the pen is full. I usually get to see this moon when I do my last feeding of the night (around midnight) for these tiny fawns. I love to lay in the straw with them and listen to the stars.

The July moon is when I start my walks at moonrise. I go around the yard checking in on everyone and making sure they are secure. So often this moon bears a ring, signifying rain is on it’s way. If it is warm, I’ll go in the pool before bed to cool off and unwind.

We had a bonus moon this year. The early august moon that I grew up calling the “Green Corn Moon”. It was a time when the Native Americans would hold corn roasts. I only got three ears of sweet corn this year as the squirrels beat me to them. (sadly, all my flour corn appealed to them as well) No corn roast here this year.

The August moon signals the time for letting go. The early squirrels have already been released (and thus, no corn). Now is time for possums, skunks, fox, the last of the raccoons and others. The porcupines and fawns are still getting bottles, so they will get to stay a bit longer. If I don’t have tiny squirrels from the second batch, I get to sleep through the night. Yet somehow on that night of the full moon, I don’t sleep. It usually signifies the ending of summer and I am reluctant to see it dim.
Last night though, we got our bonus summer moon. Still warm enough to listen to crickets and watch the bats fly. Perfect for sitting in the yard in my pajamas with a cup of tea and the dog. I wonder if she and the cat realize that soon, they will be the full focus of my attention without competing with the wildlings. By the next moon, they will all be free.

I sipped my tea and reviewed the summer. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I wanted, but I never do. It was a summer of loss and face masks and missing friends. There were no gatherings over the Fourth of July, no pop in guests of friends and family and I missed the children. There were so few children here this year. The tomatoes got blight, the cucumbers failed and between the garden’s resident rabbit and squirrels, pickings were slim.

Yet, there was more to this summer. There was a deep gratitude of being alive, of Jimmy having a job when others don’t. The appreciation of abundance from the land in meat, eggs and growing things. There was the love I felt every time I saw my family or friends. A love that comes from the realization of just how fragile life is. The knowledge, that we have “enough” and that enough, is really all you need….food, shelter and love.

As the moon wains and the summer turns to fall. I wish you all “enough”…and if you happen to have abundance…be joyful and share. If we all did that, then everyone would have enough and the world would be a fine place indeed.

City Girls in the Country

Well that was one lady who should have stayed in the city.

A woman calls me early this morning. She was out walking her dogs on the road and they ran into the woods on a neighbors property, barking their heads off. She went into the woods after them. There was a coon in a trap.

“A live trap?” I asked.

“No! one of those horrible leg traps” she nearly screamed. She went on to tell me how she had been calling all over and I was the only one who would answer the phone and 911 kept giving her my number. (Maybe she should have waited till after 9 AM to call.)

I asked if the trap was on her property. “No. It’s on the owners He’s not home”

Do you have permission from the owners to be on his property?

“No he has “KEEP OUT” signs.

Are your dogs leashed?

“No, they like to run when we go for walks.”

(the picture was becoming clearer with every word.)

First of all, I said. Get off his property,. You are breaking the law. Second of all, put your dogs on a damn leash. A. There may be more traps, but you are once again breaking the law by not having them leashed.

“But what about the cooooooonnnnnnn”, she whined.

I can’t do anything about that. It is on private property and he maybe trapping that coon because it’s killing his chickens or other stock. It isn’t regular, legal fur trapping season yet, So if if anything, you can report him for that, but it is still on PRIVATE. POSTED PROPERTY. Get off his property.

Get off his land and get your dogs leashed. People WILL be legally trapping for fur by the beginning of October…LEASH YOUR DOGS! It is a way of life for some around here and whether we like it or not, it is against the law to interfere with someone’s traps if they are legally set. You will have no repercussions if your dogs walk into one of these traps.

She had some choice words about “Backwoods Barbarians” and people who don’t care about “Animal rights” and other things before she hung up.

I’m not real fond of leg hold traps, but I understand what it’s like to have animals killing your chickens or rabbits or getting into things they shouldn’t. Each person has to make the choice themselves, how far they want to go. Some animal control companies aren’t much more merciful. Often the animal is trapped in a live trap, but then submerged in water to drown.

The truth is …life is ugly and complicated and far, far removed from the Disney movies we like to believe in. This woman is the kind who will complain about how meat is processed and that “Animals have rights”, while she is eating steak off her fancy plate in her McMansion.

People have rights too and one of the greatest rights is the right to have privacy on their own property without someone and their dogs traipsing all over it.

Sorry lady. I can’t help you. I feel for the coon, but I don’t know the whole story here and neither do you.

Red Devils

Ever chassed a red squirrel in the house? It took two adults with nets and a dog, but we got the ungrateful little bastard who has been breaking into the studio and raiding the seed.

I learned some things…..

Red squirrels are fast. Way faster than you’d think.

They are clever. Actually smarter than two old farts and a fat Labrador.

Red squirrels can climb up the back of the shelf that you think they have them trapped under and then jump straight at your face before landing on the other side of the room.

A fat Labrador Retriever can knock you on your ass. The red squirrel can then run back and fourth over your body while you try to get up.

They bounce like a superball. Off windows. Off walls. Once I swear, off the ceiling.

Nets mean nothing to them.

Getting them from a net into a cage for removal from the premise starts the whole process over again.

Once captured and contained, they use surprisingly filthy language. They also understand human anatomy and have a good grasp on your mother’s marital status at your birth.

If you hold the cage too close to you, they WILL pee on you.

Fat labs and old people run out of breath quickly and need to sit down before releasing said red squirrel. Some of us require a stiff drink.

Red squirrels, luckily cannot chew through a metal cage in the 6 miles to the release site. Though they will make valiant attempts.

Be ready when you get them to the woods and open that cage door, they will shoot out at about 68 miles an hour. Don’t point it at your face. Be prepared for more swearing. His and yours.

While we were at it. We took a bag of possums out to be released too. We never heard a peep out of them. They politely stayed in their bag till I poured them on the ground. They seemed grateful. Not one of them peed on me. There was no swearing or referral to my lineage.

I sure hope red squirrels aren’t good at finding their way home.

Fat Gophers and Fast Mice

The other night, I lost a mouse in the studio. (again literally “Lost” not as in “it died.”

It was the day after I released the gophers, way at the back of the property. I had thought about keeping the entertaining little buggers, but they were born wild and therefore should be returned to the wild.

The same with the mother mouse. We found her and her babies in a drawer in Jimmy’s shed and I couldn’t bear to kill them. So I made up an aquarium (with a tight lid) and let her raise them.

Since Bob took off, I was going to have the glass reptarium on my table anyway (no other place to store it) I thought I could build a mouse palace for the 4 babies. I did, they have a castle with rooms, an exercise wheel and toys.

That’s where the problems started.

I scooped up Mom Mouse and released her on the other side of the fence.. (You know, the born wild rule) That went smoothly and so did moving three of the babies. The fourth, however, completely ignored the net, ran straight up my arm, over my shoulder and made a daring leap to the floor where he promptly disappeared in the maze that is my studio.

I figured that eventually, he would show up. Last night, as I was on my way to bed, he did. I swear to Buddha, he ran out and thumbed his nose at me, only to disappear again under the shelves.

“Hah!” I said as I went to get my tiniest live trap. “I’ll have you by morning”. I baited the trap with the only thing mice can’t resist….Twinkies.
This morning, the twinkie was gone and the trap had misfired. (probably due to me dropping it twice while getting it off the top shelf). I got the hammer and pounded out the dent. I reset it, not expecting to see anything till tomorrow morning.

About an hour ago, I noticed Sophie on point at the mouse trap. I picked it up. It seemed awfully heavy for a mouse.. It was. It wasn’t a mouse. It seems gophers like twinkies too.

I’m not really all that surprised that he actually got his chubby little butt up to the house from the back yard. I AM astonished that he got in the house (probably through the doggy door) and back to my studio. Right now, he is standing up like a fat little meerkat laughing at me from a hamster cage. So much for being wild.

We’ll see how fast he makes it back after I blindfold him and take him for a long ride in the car.

Oh shit. There are 6 more out there and a mouse in my studio.

I don’t think I have enough twinkies.

Fished up Kingfisher

I just had one of those great endings I always look for. You know, a happy end to a bad situation. (no, unfortunately the Karen next door didn’t move).

Yesterday a woman shows up (in a really nice car, by the way) all in a dither. She didn’t want to wait to call me , she just wanted to get here right away. (Good thing I was home). She had a bird. She had no idea what kind of bird. It had been hanging from a tree by fishing line.

As soon as I heard it trilling from the box, I knew it was a Kingfisher. I’ve raised lots of these and they stay just long enough to clean out any goldfish in my pond.

Kingfishers nest in banks of sand or clay near rivers or lakes. They dig a tunnel (I have no clue how they do this) and build their nest at the back. This unfortunately leads to people accidently digging them up when they move a sand bank or buy some fill dirt. The last batch of babies I got, tumbled out of the scoop of a back hoe and the people thought they were pinecones, till one of them moved.

They really do resemble living, moving pinecones. Their feathers have rather long sheaths covering them (I suppose it has something to do with the dirt that surrounds them) And they kind of stick out like bristles. They only way you know you are looking at a bird at first, is that long, rather sharp beak.

Once you get the dirt brushed off them, their spiky head crest pops up and you get a stern look from piercing black eyes. (They all look fierce, It’s just their “thing” I guess) The next thing you notice is that they have no legs. No legs and tiny little feet. They are not built to walk. Ever. They are built to fly and perch on branches and to dive and swim under water to catch the fish and water bugs they feed on.

The other thing I like about these birds is their coloring. As an adult, they are a deep green with a rusty red breast. They blend in perfectly with the trees they perch in watching the water.

The things i like least are their long sharp beaks and their call. To say a Kingfisher is loud is an understatement. The only birds I have ever raised that is louder, is a bucket full of chimney swifts. (Imagine a rusty smoke detector. Magnify that by however many birds are in that bucket)

I’m not even sure how to describe the call of a Kingfisher. It’s a trilling sound, but has definite overtones of a badly slipping fan belt. They call when they are hungry. They call when you walk through a room, they continue to call even after you move them to a pen outside where they can’t see you. Then when they are free, they call from all over the neighborhood, just to let you know they are there.

Kingfishers are great though, the first few days you may have to force feed them. (usually by prying that sharp beak open and stuffing a catfish nugget down their throat., but they quickly learn to grab that fish or nugget or finger as soon as it appears. You go through a lot of Band-Aids raising Kingfishers. Then suddenly, one day they don’t want you to feed them. They will fight you beak and claw to avoid that catfish nugget. You open the door to the pen and they go. They fly straight up and out, so you better not be in their way.

They never come back to you again. They just scream hello as they fly over you in the garden.

But, back to the bird in hand. I pulled the Kingfisher out of the box, mostly by his beak hanging onto my finger. He continued to gnaw on me as I examined him. A beautiful adult male, he was in perfect prime, except for one wing. His right wing looked as if it had been stripped of feathers from the joint down. There was indeed a very fine red wire fishing line tangled and wound around the remaining primary feather.

It didn’t look good, but I smiled and promised to do my best for him. She left feeling better and promised to try and catch some minnows off their dock. Before she left, she stuffed some cash in my pocket in case she couldn’t. Minnows are expensive.

The bird screamed curses at me and all my offspring as we went in the house and the magnifying light. Once I started working on his wing, he calmed down, almost as if he knew I was trying to help him, though it was most likely exhaustion. I’d never seen fishing line like this, it was almost as fine as a human hair and made of wire. It was tangled and wrapped so tightly that I couldn’t unwind it. Finally I got a darning needle and managed to slip it under the wire and clip the strands and knots with my finest and smallest scissors. (so much for the art of Japanese paper cutting). I came up on the last tangled area at the top of his wing. It took some serious finagling and a few more bites, but the wire was free.

That’s when amazing things started to happen. The feathers were intact. I brushed them back in place with my fingers and straightened them the best I could. I manipulated the wing and nothing was broken or displaced. There was some swelling at the shoulder socket, but otherwise it seemed fine.

I decided that since I already had him pissed off, I’d force feed him some intensive recovery food that comes in a packet to be mixed with water. He actually took it well. I then moved him out to the fawn pen where he could rest in the straw in peace. I only bothered him twice more to feed before dark.

After a night where I listened to the fawns bitch because someone was in their pen (even though they hardly use it any more) I went out to check him in the morning light. He was sitting up (as well as a Kingfisher can sit up with those tiny feet and no legs), he raised his crest and trilled when he saw me. I opened the door. He flew straight past me and is now eyeing the last nervous goldfish in my pond. They will both be gone in a few hours.

If all that wasn’t cool enough. When he reached that tree over the fishless pond. He lifted his head and called out in what sounded like triumph….a dozen others answered from almost every direction.

Hi guys. I’m glad you’re doing well and still around.

I guess I’d better go buy more goldfish.

I lost a goose

I lost a goose today. No. He didn’t die. I just kind of misplaced him for a few hours.

He was around this morning and then I got busy and wasn’t paying attention to him and his obviously chosen mate. The female is a bit younger and doesn’t fly as well, but the male is testing his wings. I end up retrieving him from the duck pen, from Levi’s yard, from Ben and Sam’s yard….it’s a work in progress. He can get there, but can’t always figure out how to get back.

This afternoon I did notice that he was running around the yard willy-nilly while flapping his wings. By evening, I noticed he was gone. His little mate was wandering around the yard crying piteously. I felt so bad I left the beans I was prepping to dehydrate on the counter and went out looking for him. I checked in front, Jimmy checked in back.

Just as we were coming in the back door, we heard the bell ring. A woman who lives over a mile away was on the porch. She said she had a Canada Goose in her yard and figured it belonged here. We grabbed the net and followed her home. It was almost dark, but we could see her teenaged daughter herding a goose in the driveway.

As soon as I got out of the car he ran towards me, but with so many people around he wouldn’t let me pick him up. We used the net, his dignity was sorely bruised. Better his dignity, than my head. We got his wings under control and he rode quietly home on my lap. He would groom my hair, then my eyebrows and made a fair attempt at my old lady moustache by the we pulled in the drive.

As soon as he knew he was home, he got excited and It was not easy carrying him to the back yard. I had to pull the string to open the gate with my teeth, but we got there. He called out to his mate and she called back. I set him down and they ran to each other.

The reunion was truly touching. They chattered happily to each other and touched heads repeatedly. Finally they wandered off to their wading pool for a cool drink. All was well in their world.

I looked around the yard. I could smell the blooming phlox and night flowers. The solar lights were coming on one by one and a small bat flitted about my head catching mosquitoes. The moon was just rising and it’s nearly full. I could watch stars appear one by one just like my solar lights.

I sat out there for a while simply enjoying the night. Crickets sang and off somewhere in the yard I could hear the mother peacock cooing her babies to sleep. It was beautiful and I would have missed it if not for the lost goose. I have no idea how he ended up there, perhaps he tried to follow the wild geese as they came off the mill pond and he couldn’t quite keep up and landed. They said he seemed rather determined to walk home as I suppose he is not yet ready to fly at night.

It was getting chilly and I needed to finish the beans. For some reason I reached up and felt my ear. My left earring was gone. My favorite gold hoop earrings that I wear most days of the week. I started to feel sad and then I thought…..

I’d rather see that goose reunion than have all the gold earrings in the world

Squirrel milk vs. Goat milk

I knew that possums had a fair sense of smell, but holy cow, I had no idea just how good it is.

last night the pole dancing porcupine, Moon Pie, wanted a bottle. I really wonder if she will ever give it up, but then if she does she will probably exchange it for a beer bottle. Anyway, all the other animals were asleep, including the batch of baby possums I have in the studio.

Now these possums are probably somewhere between the size of a large mouse and a very small rat and they get baby food (otherwise known as “baby meat and baby slop” on the shopping list), with goatmilk poured over it. Sometimes if I’ve mixed up extra for the porcupine, they get squirrel milk (I really want to meet the guy that milks those squirrels)

They LOVE the squirrel formula. They tolerate the goat milk.

So about 11:15 Pm. I go and make Moon Pie her night bottle. She likes it with a little Gerber sweet potato with cinnamon mixed in. (Hey, none of that cheap-assed Sprout or Meijer for my girl, that’s for possums). I sit down with her in the desk chair and all of a sudden these little possum faces pop up out of the bottom of their cage. They ended up literally, drooling through the wire. They went from a sound sleep to ‘Hey I can smell that” is 10 seconds or less.

That’s a pretty good nose.

As an experiment, I gave them two dishes of milk. One squirrel, one goat. EVERYBODY was at the squirrel dish, except for Oscar,( there’s something not quite right about that boy). Then I gave them one dish of the Gerber cinnamon sweet potato and a dish of Meijer, squash, plumb and beets (yea, I know babies eat disgusting things). Oscar dove into the squash face first and wallowed. Everybody else just licked him off later.

Then I thought, “hey, there must be something to this and I TASTED the two formulas. I’d put that squirrel stuff in my coffee instead of creamer. It was that good. Too bad it’s so expensive.

So the take away on this? 1. I’ll do about anything after midnight. 2. We need to milk more squirrels. 3. Possums have very discerning noses and 4.I think Oscar and I have a lot in common brainwise.

Counting crows

I had the best ending possible with the crow I was raising. It came to me sick. Very sick. There were three found on a golf course, all alone in the sun.
Crows never abandon their babies. For these three to be there, not only the parents, but any extended family would already be dead.
One crow was barely alive and didn’t even make it here. Of the other two, one was extremely ill and the other just hanging in there. I recognized the signs of poison. The ticks, the drooling, the head tilting backwards. They could not even stand and used their partially feathered wings to support themselves.
My best guess is that the golf course (this was just before they reopened to the public) had poisoned gophers, chipmunks or other rodents they consider to be “pests”.
The family unit of crows not only ate them, but fed them to their babies. The adults received the higher dose, the babies a bit less, so they died slower, no water, no food, hot sun. They probably fell from the nest.
I wasn’t sure I could save either of them, but they made it through the night. On the third day the sickest one died in spite of treatment. The other began to respond. Another day and he could stand. A few more and he took food from my fingers instead of pumping liquid food into him.
He was a bit odd. Most crows bond quickly to me, but I figured that since this one was nearly ready to fledge, he was more independent. He was inside for about a month and started flying from shelf to desk. Where ever a crow flies or lands or sits, it also shits. there was a lot of that going on. He liked to sit on top of the other cages and see if he could make direct hits on the occupants. The night I had to clean crow crap off my keyboard with a cotton swab, I decided he was moving outside.
His big cage went out on the porch, where he could see the other crows and wild birds. The other crows were my main worry. There is a family unit that lives out behind the house. Family units are close knit and they don’t often tolerate strange crows in their territory. Especially when they have babies. This family had three, I could hear them every day.
I suspect that at least one of the original members of this clan was raised by me a few years ago and I know that the crow from last summer was accepted into their family. I really hoped that a gradual introduction could be made.
After some time with the cage on the porch, I let the fledgling out. They usually don’t go far at first, and stay in the front yard to be close to the kitchen door for feeding. The first day went fine. I noticed last years crow was coming to the big maple tree to observe the newcomer. I prayed that he would not attack it.
By the third day of letting him out, he flew to the tree where the older crow sat. Then they disappeared. By evening. I worried, I called for the baby crow. I finally heard him answer from across the street in a wooded area. I got some food and went to him. He was just out of reach. I knew he must be hungry, but he ignored my repeated offers of food. I finally gave up around dark and hoped he would be back at the porch in the morning.
He wasn’t. He was not where I last saw him either. I did not see him all day, nor did I see the crow from last year. I thought I’d lost him.
On the second morning, I heard him in the back yard. I could also hear the other crows and their babies. I went out and could see him high up in a dead tree next door. I kept trying to coax him down and then another crow flew next to him and fed him. It was the yearling crow from last year. It had taken on the baby crow.
Now I hear 4 babies calling to their family members to feed them. He is living the life of an absolutely normal crow. He has family. One of the most important things for a crow to survive is family. They took him in. I don’t know for sure, but I believe it was because they knew he was connected to me and they recognize me as some sort of friend.
They can teach him what I can’t. They can feed him and groom him and teach him to chase away hawks and eagles from my yard. In some way, they are my protectors and my children at the same time.
Crows. They never cease to amaze me.

Good night sweet princes and princesses

The moon is coming full and it reminds me to make my list of fawn supplies. Goat milk replacer, a new bag of colostrum, a few packages of rubber nipples, 16 ounce soda bottles (someone will have to drink the soda for me) bottle brushes, canned pumpkin and of course, baby shampoo for washing fawn butts.

Almost every fawn up here in the north, will be born between this full moon and the next. It’s been a mild winter, so there will probably be many sets of twins, maybe some triplets. They are born I such large numbers that the coyotes who prey on them will be overwhelmed and over fed. It seems harsh, but it actually allows more fawns to survive.

As soon as a doe gives birth, she will clean up her fawn and get it on its feet as soon as possible. She will lead the wobbly baby to a safer place, away from the scent of the birth process. There, she will nurse it and quickly move away. Since the fawn has little scent of its own, it will be safer from predators if she is not too close. She will be nearby watching and listening though and will come back periodically to allow it to feed and often lead it to another place and hide it again.

Instinctively, the fawns know not to move. Their soft spots allow them to blend into their surroundings. Sometimes those surroundings may be surprisingly close to a house. I receive many calls each spring from frantic home owners who find a fawn tucked among the hostas or under a low hanging tree. If the fawn is lying quietly, I assure them that it has not been abandoned. Does rarely abandon their babies and a quiet fawn us usually just fine. She thinks of your yard is a safe place for her baby. Enjoy the treat.

If you find a fawn lying quietly, curled up with his nose tucked to its tail. It is fine to take a quick photo from a distance (NO SELFIES please) and then move away. It may pick up its head and give you a gaze, but will stay put unless you interfere with it. You may hear a snort from a distance and know that mom is watching your every move and wants you to leave her baby alone. Please do!

If by chance the fawn is in an unsafe place, like the middle of a two track or a construction site (believe me, it’s happened), Try and contact a rehabber before you move it to a safer spot in the near vicinity. Never move a fawn that is not in emanate danger.

A fawn that is wandering around and crying needs help. A fawn standing alongside a dead mother on the road needs help. Call a licensed rehabilitator (there is a list on line, under wildlife rehabilitation)

Every year I get in at least one fawn that was unnecessarily removed from the wild. Sometimes It is a well-meaning person who doesn’t understand the ways of nature. Sometimes, I can return them to their mothers. Most of the time, it is too late. Others are attacked by family dogs (KEEP YOUR DOG LEASHED when in the woods in the spring), once, I got one in that had been dragged through the doggy door by a yellow lab. It’s not usually pretty when a dog grabs a fawn. I’ve been spattered with blood way too often trying to save them. It always breaks my heart.

Most of the time, the fawns are found in the area where a doe has been killed by a car and someone manages to catch it and bring it to me. Sometimes people hear the fawn crying for days before they find it. Then I am dealing with a dehydrated, starving and traumatized animal and trying desperately to save it.

Then, there are the people who think they can raise it themselves. That’s not a good idea. Not only is it illegal, but it’s not as easy as it seems. If they are lucky, someone, (usually the DNR) finds out and the fawn is brought to me. Hopefully too much damage has not already been done.

Fawns need to be fed at least 5 to 6 times a day, 24 hours a day. That means getting up in the middle of the night for weeks. Fawns don’t take to the bottle easily and it can be a real struggle in the beginning to feed them. They require special formulas, they require manual stimulation with a warm wash cloth to get them to eliminate in the beginning. Then they poop and pee anytime, anywhere on whoever that feel like. That’s the reason for the baby shampoo.

I usually start them in a play pen in the house, and then as soon as possible I move them to a large, completely enclosed, outdoor pen attached to the house. The door stays closed for a few weeks, and on warm days I let them out into a small area within our fenced in yard. When they can jump that three foot fence, they have the run of the whole, fenced in ¾ acre yard. And run they do. The center of the yard is my garden surrounded by another fence (People joke that the animals run free in my yard , but the plants are caged. It’s true.) The area around the garden becomes their own personal race track and I can never keep grass growing on the corners.

Bottle feedings get further apart as the fawns start eating grass (and my hostas) and deer chow. They get peppermints for treats and till mid-July, they still get tucked into bed in their pen every night. I love that last feeding at night best. I get milky kisses and nuzzles before I go in. As I latch the door, I always say “Good night sweet princes and princesses of the forest. Dream of sunny days and cool nights, winter moons and sweet clover. Someday you will be free.”

Then in September, I lower the gates to the outside world. Sometimes they go over right away; sometimes, they don’t leave the yard for another week. They are allowed to come and go as they please, as long as they please. The very longest night of the year is the night they aren’t all back in the yard when I go to bed. I lay there listening for every sound. “Was that a coyote in the distance? Did I hear the screech of brakes?” Usually though, they are there in the morning waiting for breakfast and peppermints.

Some stop coming back within weeks, some still return until Thanksgiving or Christmas. Eventually though, it happens. I go out in the yard and call, “Babies! Where are you?”, and no one comes.

Then I stand there in the silence and say “Good night sweet princes and princesses of the forest. Dream of sunny days and cool nights, of winter moons and sweet clover. Today….you are free.