While we often are frustrated with having to protect all our plants, shrubs and trees from the resident whitetail deer herd, we also get rewarded by observing them over the course of the year to see their changes of “coats” from winter to summer and back again in the fall, and to see the bucks grow their antlers each year, starting with the velvet stage. This past week Kathy was out hanging up clothes and noticed a doe lying down nearby in our orchard. That was not unusual, as they seem to like to rest in the soft grass under the shade of our fruit trees. You can often see 5-10 of them resting their, especially on a hot day. This particular doe, however, was in labor and soon gave birth to twins. We went upstairs (we have a bonus room over the garage) where we could observe without being seen or disruptive to the process. We took the screen off the window and videoed the amazing scene.
As soon as the fawns are born, mom, always alert to the danger of roving predators like the coyote, begins bathing them. She often licks so vigorously, she knocks them over as they are struggling to stand for the first time on their wobbly legs. The young deer is able to stand within the first ten minutes of its life and within about an hour the fawns can sufficiently coordinate their wobbly legs to follow their mother to a resting place. One of the twins we saw born was a bit bigger than the other and was able to stand and walk within just a few minutes, although at one point as it was walking around mom instinctively looking for some nutritious milk, it lost its balance and went tumbling over backwards! The second, smaller fawn made numerous attempts to stand up before succeeding. Many times it would just about be up when mom would lick her baby and it would collapse back to the ground.
Once the fawns get their “land legs,” mom will eat the placenta in order to eliminate any telltale sign which would betray the deer’s presence and then will take the fawns to a safe resting place where for up to three days the young animals remain practically motionless with their legs tucked under them, their neck stretched out, and heads pressed flat against the ground. The fawns, having been thoroughly cleaned by mom, are odorless, and their spotted bodies (more than 300 spots) blend inconspicuously with the surrounding, looking like light filtering between leaves of trees above. Mom will separate herself from her offspring so that her own scent will not endanger the fawn by attracting enemies, but she will return several times a day to feed her babies.
Soon the fawns are ready to start exploring with mom, which will make them more vulnerable to predators. Another feature God designed for fawns’ protection was for its tracks to leave no scent. Adult deer have inter-digital glands located between the points of the hooves which deposit a waxy secretion causing the scent of the deer’s tracks to be stronger than any other animal. This is not the case with young fawns. But, as the fawns grow and become stronger, they are prone to wander, so mom has to clearly teach them that when she hides them they must stay there. Every time a fawn is disobedient, the doe firmly pushes it back down with its muzzle. If firmer measures are needed, the doe places a front hoof on the fawn’s back and forcefully presses it to the ground. To the human observer, it might appear that the doe is pretty cruel, but she is protecting her young and teaching them how to survive in a hostile environment. Since we are the only place in our neighborhood that does not have dogs, our property is sort of a “wildlife refuge” where the deer feel safe. We once had a doe leave her fawn on the step to our shop and didn’t return for her for about six hours. Even though at one point the sun began shining directly on the fawn (and I placed a wheelbarrow to shade it), the fawn stayed put, only moving once to change directions.
I guess we humans can learn some lessons from the whitetail deer. We too live in a hostile world under the rule of Satan (Jn. 12:31 cf Rev. 12:9). Peter gives this warning: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Pet. 5: 8). Jesus told his disciples: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15). As believers, we need to recognize that our enemy will do all he can to destroy our testimony and our joy. The world system, ruled by Satan, is opposed to Christ and to all who represent Him on this earth. So, not only does each of us need to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” and to “put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10,11), but we need to be protectors and trainers of our children and grandchildren, and that includes discipline which is for their good. Unfortunately we are living in a “post- Christian culture” where child discipline is nearly non-existent. Just as God disciplines all His children (Heb. 12:5-11), so we as parents must discipline our children, to help protect them from the one who seeks to “devour” them.” The book of Proverbs is the best child-training manual ever written, yet today it is considered “out of date” and “barbaric” by many. But, it, as part of God’s Word, is to be our final authority for faith and practice, not the ideas of man. Check out Proverbs 1:8,9; 3:12; 4:1-6; 6:2-22; 13:24; 19:18; 22:6,15; 23:13,14; 29:15,17.
Fawns are weaned from their mother’s milk in four months, but much earlier, at about three weeks of age, the fawns are taught by mom how to forage on their own, shown what’s good to eat—including all those things which are advertised here as “deer resistant!” When our children are young, we read Bible stories to them and pray with them before bedtime, etc, but as they grow older, we need to help them get into the Word on their own and to learn how to talk to God. We need to help them establish a healthy, vibrant, personal relationship with God so that they, when on their own “will not depart from it” (Pr. 22:6) and will be able to stand against the attacks of the enemy.