Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

It all started with five deer

Windswept Ranch

Amazing isn't it, how things go in full circles and somehow everything seems to connect.

Two days ago, I got a call from a big zoo about five fallow deer that had been confiscated by the Department of Fish and Wildlife from someone who had obtained and held them illegally. The zoo was being asked to take them, but really do not want them. Would I take them?

How odd that a similar call 20 years ago set me on the course I now follow.

That call came from the University of California. They had acquired a large farm in Piru and planned on using it for experimental farming programs. Problem was, there was a small Christmas tree farm on the premises with five fallow deer. They did not want the Christmas trees or the deer. Would I take them?

Fallow deer are either European (dama dama) or Middle Eastern (meso dama) and are a mid-size deer. They can be brown, white and even remain spotted as they age-keeping the look of a fawn throughout their lives. They are one of the few deer species that have actually been domesticated and are commonly farmed in Europe.

Of course I said yes, to both. Are you sensing a pattern here?

The Piru Five, as they became known in the media, came to live with me in Oak View long before the move to Kern County, but not without a major battle with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Seems a permit was needed to acquire the deer and while I could get the permit, I could not get those deer. Those deer could only be transferred as venison per the permit currently in place. Well, those deer had their own attorney and after three hearings, I was certified as a shelter for deer and those deer came home.

Those deer taught me so much. I learned about safe handling of wild deer. I learned about appropriate feed. I learned about building trust. Each of these skills helps me in my daily tasks here at the ranch and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity those deer provided. Without them, I would never have been able to acquire reindeer which are the main support of Windswept Ranch.

The last of the Piru five, Joy, died three years ago at the age of 23. Not bad for a species whose average lifespan is about 15 years.

Nothing has been decided about the fallow deer at the zoo as of this writing, but I will keep you posted. You can follow on Facebook at Windswept Ranch to see not only what happens with these five, but also what else is happening at the ranch. Or you can visit the ranch and see firsthand. We are open Saturdays from 10 – 4 p.m. through the end of October. Come and watch as our circle continues to grow.

Directions: From Tehachapi take Highline east to Tehachapi Willow Springs, turn right and go 11-miles to the "OPEN" banner and turn right up the dirt road. Any questions, call (661) 809-3965.