BamBam is this year’s first fawn. Photo by Barbara Mason.
by Diana Frieling
Just when you thought it was safe to pull up the covers and go to sleep, the phone rings! It seems the phone has rung more this deer season than in past years.
We have taken in fawns from Bear Valley, Golden Hills, Frasier Park and Arvin. They have come from private parties, the police and game wardens. What they all have in common is they are orphans who need a shot at life.
Here at Windswept we try hard to give that shot to them. The problem is that it is not legal for us to do so: Native deer are illegal to have in captivity. The fines are stiff, and I would not look good in an orange jump suit.
I have tried to get licensed to rehabilitate deer for several years but, each time, the answer has been no. I have been handling deer for almost 17 years, so it is not that I lack experience: In fact, Windswept Ranch is licensed by the Department of Fish and Game as a shelter for deer.
So for now, I intake the fawns, get them started on bottles and make sure they are healthy. Then I transport them over three hours to someone who is licensed near Yosemite. There are five genetically identified deer herds in California and the state does not want them mixed: That means deer from this area must be released in this area. It also means that Louise Culver who takes the deer from me needs to keep the herds she intakes separate on her property. Then she needs to transport them back for release. It is all very time consuming and underscores the need for a rehab facility in our area.
It is never easy saying good bye to the fawns when I drop them off, but I know it is for the best.
It is very important for these babies to be kept wild, so they can be safely released. If they are too socialized, they will have a difficult time in the wild. They will either be too trusting of people or, worse still, the bucks will be extremely dangerous to people. The best outcome involves the least amount of interaction between the fawns and the humans who care for them. That requires some pretty special handling facilities.
Since I am not licensed, I have never done any of the work to set up the facilities needed. However – this year –, when I contacted the Department of Fish and Game about getting licensed, they said maybe! They acknowledged that we need rehab in this year, and that I do have the skills to do it: Now they want me to come up with a plan to make it happen.
I will be visiting a couple of other rehabs over the next couple of months and hopefully be able to attend a release in December. That should provide me with the information I need to submit a plan to DFG and finally get the license.
In the meantime, I will continue to gamble on that orange jump suit and take in deer when necessary. You can reach me at 661-809-3965. I have discovered one of my volunteers who is willing to be my “partner in crime”: Sharon Bank. Sharon is in Bear Valley and can be reached for deer emergencies at 661-821-1835. Right now, with the help of a number of wonderful people in Bear Valley, we are monitoring a lame doe and her twin fawns. We hope that we will not have to intervene, but we are ready if need be.
Anyone who says crime does not pay has never struggled to get a fawn started on the bottle and been rewarded with that marvelous sucking sound when they finally figure it out. It is definitely the sound of hope. Hope is what we do here at the ranch. Come on out for a visit and you will understand what I mean. We are open every Saturday through October from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.