Black tailed deer are a common sight around Vancouver Island and in summer many people enjoy watching the spotted fawns following their mothers.
However, the fawns are not able to follow their mothers around town right away. The does often leave their fawns for hours at a time to go feed.
Fawns are born with very little smell which, coupled with a natural instinct to hide in tall grass or bushes, usually makes it safer for them to stay put instead of following their mother, possibly getting attacked by predators and then not having the speed or agility to get away.
However, on June 8, the opposite proved true for one unlucky fawn.
Hiding in the grass in a hay field on Headquarters Rd, the fawn was hit with a tractor-mower. This unfortunately happens a lot and many don’t survive, but this one was rushed to Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society with her left femur broken.
The prognosis was not good; it was a bad break and she would be very young for such an intense surgery to fix it. But Maj Birch, the manager from MARS, took her to see Dr. Stacey Gastis at Sunrise Vet Clinic to assess the severity of the injury; no one was very hopeful for a positive result.
The surgery was long and complicated. Traction was applied to the femur to straighten it, then pins were inserted into the bone to keep it in place. Twice throughout the surgery the fawn stopped breathing and the anesthesia was turned off so that artificial resuscitation could take place.
That evening, Maj came back with the fawn, still alive, with six pins in her leg in place of a cast to stabilize the broken bones, but her fight for life was not over yet.
“It was terrible,” Marielle Fassenet, an international intern from the Dijon region in France and the primary fawn caregiver, says about the fawn’s first night after the surgery, “because she was really weak and lost lots of blood. We had to monitor her every hour overnight to check if [the leg] was still bleeding, or if she’d lost circulation [to the foot due to the pressure of the bandages].”
No one thought she would last the night.
By the next morning the fawn’s leg had stopped bleeding, she was drinking from a bottle, and trying to walk around. She was nicknamed Sunrise in tribute to the work done by Sunrise Vet. At first, she could not walk without the help of a sling to support her rear end, but a few days later she was walking with a limp, and was moved outside.
Her recovery was fast and almost without any hitches. A couple weeks into her recovery, the wound site became infected; but thanks to the diligent work of MARS interns and some antibiotics, the infection quickly cleared up.
One month after her mishap with the mower, the bone was pronounced healed and the pins removed. A couple days later, she was introduced to the other orphaned fawns.
At first Sunrise was shy of the other fawns; she had had little contact with other fawns during her recovery, and did not know how to act with them. Fortunately, a few days was all it took for her to integrate herself with them.
When asked how Sunrise was currently doing, Marielle replied, “She is running around, she bucks, she goes ‘woo-hoo,’ and she eats like crazy.” All good things for a developing fawn to be doing.
Soon she will be transferred to a another larger facility, where she will continue to grow into an adult, then be released with the other deer into the surrounding area.
This may be the last year MARS will be able to transfer their deer to this larger facility, so in order to accommodate larger and more numerous fawns, a Bambi Bungalow was built. So far it consists of a large circular pen that older fawns have enough room to run around, hide and forage in.
However, the work on the bungalow is not finished, still requiring an enclosure for shelter and planting of browse plants; MARS staff are waiting for the fawns to be old enough to transfer before finishing it, as they do not want to stress the deer, or get them used to human sounds.
Sunrise and the other deer are given browse collected daily by interns, willow being one of their favourites. The fawns would weaned by their mother when they are about 16 weeks and so are also fed special black-tail deer milk formula imported from the U.S. until they are old enough to be weaned.
As it is imported, and a specialized formula it is very expensive to feed our fawns. If you wish to donate to MARS’s Fawn Fund to support the raising of the orphaned deer, or find injured or orphaned wildlife, you can phone MARS at 250-337-2021, or call in at 6817 Headquarters in Merville.
Unfortunately, MARS is unequipped to rehabilitate older deer and only accept young, spotted fawns during the month of June. If you find an injured deer you may call a conservation officer at 1-877-952-7277.
Sandy Fairfield is the educational co-ordinator for the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS). The MARS column appears every second Friday. This column was written by Elizabeth Lowes.