On October 25th, a cloudy/rainy fall day, we loaded up our fawns and took them to this incredible canyon near Sisters, Oregon. This area fulfills every requirement these fawns need to grow strong and produce fawns of their own: running water, bitterbrush, several kinds of trees (including apple!) and in the spring these meadows supply acres of green grass.
Wildside has been releasing fawns here for eight years. These more than 1500 acres of private property will at least protect our fawns from human intervention. Our sincere thank you to the owner of this incredible place.
Thanks to Jen McKie for preparing this video
We walk with them while they investigate. Some venture out of our sight and return when something frightens them. They begin to relax. They realize their world has expanded and there are no fences in sight. They begin to frolic and then they understand that they can really run.
So we walk. We delight in their discovery of the pond, and then the river....then the apple trees and the fresh bitterbrush (before today they only knew the bitterbrush that we cut for them).
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For a rehabber, this day is no less thrilling than winning the super bowl! These fawns came to us with no hope of survival without our assistance. For four months their best interest has been foremost in our daily lives. Our reward is to set them free.
While the loading, hauling and unloading went without problems, our fawns were visibly stressed when they found themselves in a whole new world. To watch them make the transition from captive to free is a thrill beyond compare.
At first they cling to us while they take in the grandeur of their new habitat. So we walk with them as they explore. Eventually one or two trot off and out of our sight but eventually they return to walk with us for a while longer.
And so we leave them. They have wandered off in groups of two or three. We will never know if their lives are shortened by disease or predator. We will never know if the does have fawns by their side two years from now. We will never marvel at the antlers our bucks develope.
We have chosen a release date after hunting season. We have released them into a perfect protected habitat. We have released them with a good layer of fat to keep them warm and nurished while they learn to forage for food.
So now we can only hope for their safety. We leave our fawns with mixed emotions. We share with each other, the satisfaction that comes from working together to accomplish a small but significant influence on the Mule Deer population.
THIS WAS A GOOD DAY.