Wild Life

Landscapes from Floyd County, Southwest Virginia by Fred First
IN addition to the other aspects of the deer population that we enjoy (weaponry onslaught in the fall with the resulting risk of outdoor excursions and rotting carcases left in the woods; and the season of the deer garden tour, ours is on the list) there is the fawning season. We must be in the very midst of it at the moment. And now, it is not the hunters to be wary of, but the deer themselves.

Twice this past week, does have protected their fawns from predators. Our predator: Tsuga, the wonder dog. I don’t think he’d actually hurt a new-born deer, but their mothers don’t know that. And I’m not entirely sure myself.

In the second episode of dog-fawn encounter, the mother deer threatened not only the dog, but Ann, who was walking on the back of the land with the pup. When the dog chased the fawn up the side of the hill and wouldn’t come back, Ann feared for the dog’s safety and rushed back to the house to fetch me (and the rifle) to help. The mother deer stalked her all the way back to the house, snorting, charging, retreating, potentially dangerous.

In the end, the dog reappeared unharmed, and without any visible evidence he’d done the fawn any damage.

But how many more new-borns are out there? And just how dangerous is the wildlife we’ve come to know and to trust? I have to tell you, my heart went out to the momma deer who was simply following her instincts to protect her young. Whatever fear we felt must have been magnified many times for her. But I had the gun off safety as she paralleled our walk back up the valley, just up the hillside in the shadows.

But then, there are recent instances like this where creatures go psycho: squirrel goes on rampage.

Many thanks to my friend Dennis Ross for allowing me to use the shot he took off his deck this week of a doe with triplets. Oh great. More of the little darlings. (The chard should be ready in about a week.)

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Since I have both deer and squirrels, this makes me very sad. I love watching both animals when they’re around.

    The squirrels are so playful and funny running around the yard and up and down the trees. I keep a bird bath filled with water especially during the dry times, and they take full advantage of it.

    I see the deer much less often, but I get a thrill everytime I see them, usually from my back porch feasting on some wild vines behind the house.

    Then in the fall when the hunters start, I hate it! Not only do I hate the deer being killed, but I worry about safty for myself and my dogs. Having had firearms training, I know how very far a bullet can travel. It’s scary!

    But I’ve heard a couple other stories about deer attacking, or attempting to attack people and dogs, and that’s scary too! And as building and population expands, the deer’s territory becomes less and less.

    It’s also sad to loose the freedom to be able to spend your time in the wilderness, enjoying nature.
    I wish there was an answer to protect both the wild animals, and we the people, but that seems like an impossibility.

    I hope you and Ann and Tsuga are all ok, and the fawn is too.