As I have mentioned in previous “Wisdom of the Week” articles, we have a neighborhood whitetail deer herd which creates problems with our attempts at gardening and growing flowers, shrubs and trees. We have found very few things they actually don’t eat, especially in the fall, as they prepare for winter. We have to put cages or fences around anything we wish to protect. But, at the same time we are provided with lots of entertainment seeing God’s beautiful creatures and their antics throughout the year. We have a little rabbit that found a home under our beehives—of all places—and this last week we happened to catch sight of a doe and the rabbit playing chase. Pretty comical.
We also had the first fawn show up this past week, in the backyard of our neighbor with three dogs (two of them Great Danes!). We heard the neighbor’s son hollering at the dogs and went to investigate to discover they had found a new fawn in their yard. We took over some latex gloves and another neighbor who had arrived managed to catch the fawn (which could already run) and take it out into our field and place it in some deep grass near the neighbor’s fence. Toward evening the doe showed up and got her fawn—yea! A couple years ago we had the privilege of watching twins being born in our orchard and were able to video the amazing scene.
Because of the increase of wolves, mountain lions and grizzly bears in our area, many of the deer have moved into residential areas for safety. Since a whitetail deer will live 10-12 years, a doe, which can reproduce at age two and often has twins and occasionally triplets, can produce a family of up to 130 in her lifetime! At one time there were an estimated 50 million whitetail deer in the United States, but by the late 1800’s, they had dropped in numbers to near extinction. Public concern saved the animal and populations are now close to 10 million (We are doing our part!).
In late May or early June, the does have their young. It takes only 10-15 minutes for the doe to give birth to a fawn. She begins bathing the fawn to clean it up (and remove any smell), usually licking so vigorously that she knocks the fawn off its wobbly feet. She also eats the placenta and signs of the birth to eliminate any telltale sign which would betray the deer’s presence to a predator. The fawn is usually able to stand within just a few minutes and as soon as it can walk—in about twenty to thirty minutes—the doe leads the fawn to a place of safety. (In the case of the fawn in the neighbor’s backyard, mom forgot about the fence that her fawn couldn’t get under, over or through!) The doe will take the fawn to a safe place to rest for the next 2-3 days during which the fawn remains practically motionless with its legs tucked beneath and its neck stretched out and head pressed flat against the ground, or curled up in a fetal position. God, in His wisdom, to protect the fawn from predators (which resulted from the curse He placed on the earth after sin…Gen. 3:14-19), provides the fawn with a spotted coat enabling it to blend inconspicuously with its background, the spots resembling shadows on the ground caused by sunlight filtering through the trees. In addition, the fawn is odorless for several weeks. If the fawn stays motionless, a predator could walk right by it and the infant, with its protective coloring and lack of odor would be undetected.
During those first two or three days, the doe will separate herself from the fawn so as to not attract predators, but she will return briefly several times a day to feed the fawn with her rich milk which contains twice the solids and three times the fat and protein of that of a Jersey cow. On that diet, the fawn quadruples its weight in a month! (And adult weighs 150-300 pounds.)
Soon, as the fawn gains strength from the nutritious milk, and is more sure on its legs, it is prone to start wandering and exploring. The doe, in order to protect her fawn will be firm in discipline, insisting that her little one lay down and stay there until told it’s okay to move. She will push the fawn to the ground with her muzzle, or front hoof placed in the fawn’s back pressing it to the ground. The fawn needs to learn to obey. It is really a matter of life and death.
Predators such as coyotes, cougars and wolves can quickly pick up the scent of an adult deer long after it has passed by. Inter-digital glands located between the points of the split hooves deposit a waxy secretion on the ground—but this is not the case of the fawn until it has sufficiently developed its running skills—just another way our wonderful Creator designed the whitetail deer.
Besides its quickness and speed and ability to hide, the whitetail deer comes equipped with razor-sharp front hooves which it uses as very effective weapons to inflict serious wounds on an enemy. The rattlesnake is one such enemy. The deer leaps into the air and pounces on the snake. The quickness with which the deer attacks with its sharp hooves will kill and tear the snake to shreds. God also equipped the whitetail deer with a very sensitive nose, sonar-like hearing and keen eyesight. They have the ability to focus on both nearby and distant objects at the same time. So, while it has its head down eating, at the same time it keeps an eye out for trouble. Because their eyes are set high and spread wide apart, the deer can see almost completely around itself.
If the whitetail deer were able to respond to its Maker, it would echo with the Psalmist, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb, I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works…” (Psa. 139:13,14 NKJV). And just think, If God so wonderfully designed His creatures—like the whitetail deer—we, as the “crown of His creation,” can—and should—rejoice in His design of us, His care of us, and His purpose for our lives to be able to communicate with and love Him and to spend eternity with Him through the sacrifice He made to pay for our sins. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).