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July 6, 2013

Mother Nature knows how to protect her own

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The Daily Star

---- — We’ve been camping up on our hill away from the constant sounds of the highway this week.

We have a small pond and can watch deer and turkeys as they go about their undisturbed lives. Oh, every once in a while we change our routine and it momentarily affects their natural movements and habits.

The other morning, I got up early to do a few things. I started our diesel truck and startled a doe and her fawn as they came to the pond to drink. The two ran off into the safety of the scattered pasture pines but probably returned later in the morning, when all was quiet once more.

We’ve watched the same mother and fawn as they move across the hillside almost every morning and night. They use nearly the same general path as they move between pine clumps, but things changed yesterday. The night before, the coyotes howled and yodeled between thunderstorms throughout the night.

We sat out the next night and saw them again. The doe fed about halfway up the hill as usual. The little spotted fawn ran and jumped, stretching its young legs. After a bit, the fawn started working its way down the hill toward us. We figured it was probably coming for a drink at the pond, but its mother remained on the hill and cautiously watched.

The little fellow inched ever closer using the remains of an old fence line to hide its approach. Suddenly, it appeared through the brush and entered the taller grass of the hayfield. We watched it through binoculars for a minute or so until it lay in a thick clump of goldenrod, and there it remained.

The fawn’s mother slowly moved up the hill and spent considerable time around a clump of brush. She squatted several times, leaving her scent before heading away from her fawn. It quickly became obvious that she had sent her baby into hiding and then disappeared into the thick pines farther up the hill.

Was this new behavior because of the coyotes hunting in the area the night before? How did that little fawn know to seek protection in the tall grass below the old pasture?

At 5:30 in the morning, the doe came back down the hill and found her hidden fawn. He got up and followed her up the hill. Not far away, another doe appeared. She had a pair of twins by her side.

A few years ago, we were heading into the woods east of Speculator. As we drove along the paper-company road, we approached a doe with two fawns. They watched us from the old dirt road for a few moments before moving. The doe and one fawn walked just off to the side of the road, but the other fawn ran as fast as his legs would go up the bank and into a little thicket.

It stood perfectly still as we drove by about 50 feet from the road. I always figured that the doe and her female fawn just walked away, but the fawn that raced up the hill and into the thick undergrowth was a little buck because he acted differently than the others.

Mother Nature has a wonderful way of protecting the beautiful creatures of the wild. Whether it’s instinct or a learned behavior, many survive. I guess I’m truly lucky to witness just how nature works.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.