I found a baby deer… or two.

This year's first babies arrived 10 May 2014. Meet Dove and Quail

This year’s first babies arrived 10 May 2014. Meet Dove and Quail

Each year in late spring and early summer, deer throughout the United States give birth to their babies. Deer are very interesting animals and like most species they have some very interesting idiosyncrasies. For example, mother deer spend very little time with their young. To avoid attracting predators, moms will hide their babies in deep grass or brush and leave them alone for hours at a time while she forages for food. Shortly after birth, the momma deer will nudge the baby with its nose until the infant falls down. Once down, the baby sits without any movement. The baby will not get up on its own unless mom comes to get it. It is cited in the literature that baby deer are one of the very few animals in nature that do not emit any odor that can be detected by predators. Couple the ability to stay perfectly sill with the lack of any detection odor, and baby deer are very safe without mom hanging around. They can sit so still and remain so well hidden that most people could walk within a few inches of them without detecting them .When it’s time for baby to be fed, mom will never approach the exact spot where the baby is hiding, (preventing predator detection). Mom will survey the area and if she determines that the area is safe, she will give out with a barking sound that summons the baby to her. Once junior is fed, she will knock it down again and go about her way. This pattern will last for several weeks before the baby is finally allowed to tag along with the herd. On several occasions we have seen momma deer leave the baby for more than 24 hours at a time.

This natural instinct of “duck and hide” is effective for keeping baby deer out of harm’s way. It unfortunately subjects the animal to its own set of hazards. Because it stays so still and will not run when discovered, it becomes easy prey for tractors, mowers, dogs and humans. 

When a hiding deer is run over by a motorized vehicle or farm equipment it will usually suffer major injury or death. Many deer will break or lose multiple legs in these type accidents and will need to be put down.  Domestic dogs also cause a lot of damage to the baby deer. Because the deer will not run, dogs like to grab them by a leg and drag them around the pasture. This practice usually results in a three legged deer that can usually be saved and released. These deer need rescue. Most of the deer that end up at the rehabilitation center are the deer picked up by well intentioned people. They find the deer lying in the grass, no mother around and the deer doesn’t seem to be able to get up. Well, unless you can bark like mom, it’s not doing to get up. People who like wildlife will almost always pick these animals up, take them home and try to get them care. This is the truly humanitarian thing to do, but it’s not always in the best interest of the deer. The best action when you find a fawn is to back away and leave it alone. Continue to check on it from a distance. If the fawn has been abandoned by its mom, it will start crying out. Baby deer bleat like baby sheep. The more stress, the more they cry. If you have observed the baby for 12 – 24 hours and no mom showed up and the baby is crying, it probably needs rescue. Keep in mind that once a baby is picked up and moved, the possibility of ever reuniting it with mom is very unlikely. 

If you do rescue a baby deer, get it to a licensed rehabilitator as soon as possible.

-Bob Anderson
Director Hearts Afire Deer Rescue

Rope it & Raise it? Could a hunter catch and raise a deer?

Deer With deer hunting season upon us, I am sure more than one hunter has thought raising a deer at home would be easier than deer stalking.  Several years ago a letter started circulating about just such an attempt.  Is this an urban legend or a cautionary tale of a good idea gone terribly wrong? Snopes, the debunker of internet mythology, is uncertain. Snopes doesn’t have a long history of deer tracking and hunting as well as deer rescue and rehabilitation, so they didn’t answer the question “could this happen?” Bob Anderson does, so, we sat down and talked about it one night.

“Could it be real? Sure.” Bob mused.  “Could there be some exaggeration? Yes.”

Among the things that Bob questioned was deer kicking him in the back of the head and stomping on him.  “Deer want to get away from danger, not attack” said Bob. “They are not aggressive animals. Nor are they that patient, so, the fact it just stood there after being roped might be stretching the truth. But you never know how an animal will react.  That’s why they are called wild animals.”  I observed that the tiny hoofs of baby deer clambering for their bottles leave my feet seriously bruised & Bob concurred that someone tussling with a deer would pretty battered. One thing is for sure, he said, he’d bet on the deer every time in a tug of war. They are deceptively strong and have stamina.  When it’s time for the annual release of the rescued & rehabbed deer from Hearts Afire, Bob relies on tranquilizer darts to make his job and the deer’s transition to freedom easier.

So, could the following missive be true? Maybe.  Could it happen? Certainly with an even worse outcome for the human.  Should you try to rope a deer yourself? No, but if you still think it’s a good idea don’t forget your film crew.  The emergency room staff will want to see how you got your injuries.


Actual Letter from someone who writes, and farms.

I had this idea that I was going to rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it. The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up — 3 of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me. I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold. The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation. I took a step towards it…it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope and then received an education.

The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope. That deer EXPLODED.

The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity. A deer— no chance. That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined. The only upside is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals. A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head.

At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope. I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slowly and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual. Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer’s momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in, so I didn’t want the deer to have it suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder – a little trap I had set beforehand … kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.

Did you know that deer bite? They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist. Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head — almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.

The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective. It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds. I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now) tricked it. While I kept it busy tearing the bejesus out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose.

That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day. Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp. I learned a long time ago that, when an animal — like a horse — strikes at you with their hooves and you can’t get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape. This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy. I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run.

The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down. Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are lying there crying like a little girl and covering your head. I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.

So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a rifle with a scope so that they can be somewhat equal to the Prey.



I found a baby bird that can’t fly

birdieMost people, who find a bird that cannot fly, assume the bird needs to be rescued. For adult birds, this is usually true, but not always.

An adult bird unable to fly has usually been subjected to trauma. Birds that fly into windows are very common. Birds that fly into a window and fall to the ground may not, however, be seriously injured. If there is an obvious injury: bleeding from the beak, off balance while standing, broken wing, etc., transport it immediately to a rehab facility. If there are no obvious injuries, the bird may only be stunned from the collision. When rescuing one of these birds, place it in a small-enclosed container and put the container in a place that is quiet and warm. After about two hours, open the container and allow the bird to escape. More often than not, the bird will fly away. If it can’t fly away, transport it to a rehabilitation facility.

Cat-caught birds are also common. All cat-caught birds should be transported to a rehabber as soon as possible. The sooner it receives antibiotics the better its chances for survival.

Baby birds are a different story. In the spring, it is very common to find baby birds hoping around on the ground unable to fly. Most of these little guys do not and should not be rescued. To have an understanding of when to rescue requires a basic knowledge of bird development. When a baby bird is found on the ground, it probably fell or jumped out of its nest. Before you make a decision on what you should do with the bird, you must determine what you are working with. Birds in different stages of their development have different needs.

A hatchling is a newly hatched bird and will be featherless and have its eyes closed. These birds cannot regulate their body temperature and need immediate attention. When you find a hatchling, try to locate the nest that it fell from. If you can locate it, put the bird back into the nest. Folklore tells us that a bird that has been handled by humans carry a human scent and cannot be returned to its mother. This is not true. Birds, as a rule, have no sense of smell. Babies that have had human contact are readily accepted back into the nest. If you can’t find a nest, or it’s too high to reach, warm and transport the bird to a rehabber.

Nestlings are birds with open eyes that have either feather traces or downer feathers. These birds also need warmth and care from the parent birds and should also be returned to the nest.

A fledgling is a bird that is almost fully feathered and has short tail feathers, but no ability to fly. They are ready to leave the nest [have fledged from the nest.]  A fledgling will leave the nest on its own as a natural part of its development. It will spend a few days on the ground or in low bushes before it can fly and feed on its own. These birds are very susceptible to predators. You will usually find more than one fledging in the same area. During this time, the parent birds are still feeding the fledglings and showing them where to feed. Most rescued fledglings are erroneously rescued. If you find a fledgling, leave it alone. If someone has already picked it up, return it to the place where it was caught and let it go. Try to get local homeowners to keep pets and children away from the birds and watch from a distance to be sure the parents are feeding them. If no adult bird comes within a few hours, rescue is appropriate. When watching, keep your distance or the adults may not approach the babies.

I Found Some Baby Bunnies!!


Baby cotton tails huddle together

Baby cottontails are probably the most rescued mammal in the United States. There are several reasons for this: first, rabbits generally have large litters and can reproduce every 30 days, so there are a lot of them. Second, rabbits can adapt and live in almost any available habitat, making them found everywhere in the US. They also tend to locate their nests in open areas that are susceptible to predators including dogs, cats, children and lawn mowers.

Unlike some other rabbit species that dig and live in burrows, cottontails make their nest by carving out a bowl-shaped depression in the ground in high grass or brush. The depression is about seven inches in diameter and up to five inches deep. It is lined with dried leaves and grass and belly hair from mom.

The kits are born hairless, eyes closed, and totally helpless. Their ears are not fully developed at birth and are pulled back against the side of their head. The kits develop very quickly. At ten days, their eyes and ears open. They begin the weaning process as soon as their eyes open, and they start chewing on the nesting material.

Baby rabbits develop quickly. At ten days, these rabbits are starting to open their eyes.

Baby rabbits develop quickly. At ten days, these rabbits are starting to open their eyes.

It is important to note that in order to keep from attracting predators, mother rabbits do not stay with their nest like most mammals. She returns to the nest and nurses the babies twice a day, usually at dawn and dusk. When feeding, the mother removes the nest cover material and lies down on the litter. The babies don’t suckle but rather open their mouths and throats, so that the milk runs directly into their stomach. This entire process usually takes less than a minute. The remainder of the time, she remains hidden in the brush, always keeping a watchful eye on her young but leaving the babies unattended in the nest.

This unique behavior is the reason so many bunny nests are discovered and so many bunnies are rescued. Most people that find the nest with no mother present assume that the animals are abandoned and pick them up. If fact, most of these “abandoned” bunnies are not abandoned at all, but simply waiting for mom to return.

The best way to determine the need for rescue is to watch the nest. If a pet has removed one or more bunnies from the nest and you know where the nest is, return the animals to the nest under the nesting material. Back away and watch the nest from a distance. If baby rabbits are in distress, they will do what we in the business call: “popcorn”. When a nestling kit is uncomfortable, it will begin to hop and cry. They can make a significant sound and jump surprisingly high. When several bunnies get uncomfortable, they look like popping popcorn out of the nest. If you witness this phenomenon, the babies need to be rescued. If, on the other hand, the babies remain sleeping and still, they are, at least for the time being, probably OK. Leave them alone and recheck again in 12 hours. Most likely after 12 hours the nest will have been moved by mom and the babies will be much better off not being rescued.

Baby cottontails are very difficult to raise in captivity. This is because of the limited colostrums delivered to them at birth. They have a very fragile immune system.

If you do rescue “popcorning” rabbits they should be fed unless a rehab facility is close by. Use goat milk and an eyedropper or syringe. Remember that bunnies do not suckle, so the milk needs to be dropped into the mouth.

Cottontail rabbits cannot be domesticated and do not make good pets. Attempts to keep a wild rabbit in captivity will almost certainly lead to the animal’s death.

– Bob Anderson

Jumping for joy!

Yeah!  The babies that arrived this May and June can care for themselves and were introduced to the bounce pasture on Friday afternoon.  Why is it called the bounce pasture? Take a look.

How to Coexist with Deer

Baby deer eating roseIn a perfect world, we’d all be able to happily coexist – all people and all animals living in harmony like one big happy family.  But like any family, there is always someone getting on someone’s nerves.  In many cases, it’s deer that are nibbling the roses in the flower beds or feasting on the crops in the garden.  To them your garden looks like a buffet & to you they look like unwelcome guests.

What can deter the beautiful but invasive pests? One site says clipping of human hair spread around the garden weekly will frighten them away.  From my own research, baby deer love to chew on my hair when they are trying to convince me I didn’t feed them and they need another bottle.

Another site lists a hideous concoction of spoiled milk & rotten egg spread around the garden regularly.  While this may keep the deer away, it might well keep all your friends away as well & attract some vermin.

Surrounding the property with fishing line at knee height so the deer will trip over it sounds like a trip to the emergency room waiting to happen when you forget the trip lines are strung.

Bob cat, fox and other predators urine sprinkled liberally over the garden will make the garden smell like a cat box and has not been proved to deter deer.

With no sure fire method of keeping deer away from precious flowers, fruits and veg, found,  it was time for me to Ask Bob. His answer is short and sweet.

“Build a big ass fence!” was Bob’s definitive answer.

He confirmed my suspicion that most deterrents are not proven and the only way to keep deer away is an 8 foot fence.  Alternatively, deer will not jump a 4 foot fence that is at a 45 degree angle.

One thing that does work to keep deer away from your prize roses is a mixture of cayenne pepper, oil, water and a drop of dishwashing liquid (this allows everything to mix together.). Spritz this mix on your plants regularly.  You can find multiple recipes online for this elixir.

Your only other option is to resort to plants that deer don’t like eating.  Check with your local horticultural organization for a list pertinent to your region.

Texas A&M Deer Restent Plant List

Texas Department of Agriculture Brochure




What do I do if I hit a deer with my car?

Rehab deer

Rehab deer who is feeling ignored. NOT a dead deer.

Bob Anderson, Wild Animal Rehabilitator and President of Hearts Afire Responds: 

Each year over 1.5 million deer are hit by automobiles in the United States. These collisions are hard to defend against because usually the deer comes out of the darkness quickly with little or no warning. Few people give much thought to hitting a deer because it is such a random event that most people think will never happen to them. When it does occur, most people don’t know what to do.

There are two considerations to a post deer collision. The first is the reporting obligations of the driver. Many of these incidents occur in rural areas where it’s not clear who to report the incident to.

Unfortunately, there is no standard protocol for reporting deer collisions. Each jurisdiction has its own protocols for reporting auto accidents. Some require reporting all auto accidents, others only require reporting accidents with property damage and others set limits on damage levels and reporting. Complicating these many reporting requirements is the fact that wildlife is managed by the state. Each state also has its own set of rules and requirements concerning both reporting and disposition of the deer. So, what should you do?

To cover yourself from possible legal issues, you should report the incident the same as you would any crash. Call 911 and report the incident and ask the 911 operator what you should do. If you want to harvest the animal for food, tell the operator of your wishes and let them tell you the state requirements. Be prepared to wait for a responding authority if requested to do so. You should also remember to contact your insurance company if you will be filing a claim.

Consideration should also be given to the deer. Deer seldom survive a collision, but occasionally their injuries are treatable and the animal can be saved with your help. If the deer runs from the scene, you will probably never see it again. If it is injured and still on scene, you can visually inspect it for injuries. If the animal is unable to stand and is dragging its hind legs, you are most likely looking at a spinal injury. These deer will need to be euthanized. Deer with multiple broken legs are also beyond help. Animals showing no obvious serious injuries or just cuts and tissue damage may be able to be saved. You should contact a rehabilitation facility.

If the deer is deceased, you can take a look at the deer’s belly to determine if she is a nursing female. If she is, her teats will be swollen and usually a light pink color. To be sure, you can squeeze one of the teats and look for a milk discharge. If she is a “wet” doe, you must try to locate a fawn. A nursing fawn cannot survive on its own. If there is a fawn, you will usually find it near the roadway right at the place the adult deer entered the roadway. The fawn will be lying in the deep grass or brush and will be very still. They are hard to spot, but will usually be close to the road.  If you find the fawn, pick it up and try to keep it calm and quiet. This is best accomplished by covering the deer and its eyes with a large towel, blanket or jacket.  Contact a rehabilitator.

When you report the accident, you should tell the authorities that you have an orphan animal. Ask them for a rehab contact. If you cannot get that information, contact your state game department who license all rehab centers. Most states have good Samaritan laws that allows people to legally possess wild animals while they get the animal to a properly licensed facility.


Tinier & Cuter than Lucy?

Lucy, a little 3.75 pound doe smiles for the camera.

Obviously, I love Lucy

Lucy tipped the scale at a whopping 3-3/4 pounds when she arrived at the rescue and is the tiniest deer Hearts Afire has ever cared for. Now that she’s taken to deer formula and bulked up to a little over 5 pounds she’s out frolicking with her new best friend, Haley in the nursery pasture.

While we don’t play favorites here, but it seems that the Queen’s Zoo does.  Their newest baby, a southern pudu, being touted as the smallest and cutest deer ever.   A native to South America & an endangered species, the 1 pound little girl is nameless.  Obviously, they need our resident deer name expert, Bob, to lend a hand with naming her.


Viral Deer Are Not Funny

c AP photo by Janet Murphy deer with head stuck in jar

c AP photo by Janet Murphy

Yes, deer can be funny and cute, but when they have fallen pray to human’s stupidity, it’s serious.

MSN News points out how animals stuck in jars, bags and other human debris have gone viral in Oh deer! Why these photos are not ‘cute.’  The  National Wildlife Federation also focuses on this problem and offers some solutions and a lively discussion in their blog post “Animals are Getting Their Heads Stuck in Ourt Trash.”   With all the natural adversity that wild animals have to contend with, everyone can help them and the environment with a little care.


Drones for Deer & Thanks Boing Boing!

Saving deer with drones from Swiss TV program

This morning my friend Dana Lissy sent me a link to a feature that she saw last night on Swiss TV about drone & inferred technology being used to save baby deer when fields are being cut.  This is particularly close to my heart since my first exposure to deer rescue was helping to care for a little deer that was scooped up in a hay baler which resulted in severe leg injuries. She was one of the very few lucky ones.

The boyfriend of a deer loving friend is a pilot. Deer wander around on the airstrip where he lands so they have to call ahead to make sure someone clears the deer off the runway so he can land. And if anyone would have the parts to construct a deer drone from parts laying around the house and would be eager to deploy one, Xeni and Miles would.  So, I sent the link along to them.  No news on if they are building the drone and what additional features they would add to it, but Xeni did post the link at www.boingboing.net and mention out twitter account @DeerRehab.

Thanks for sharing this great story of technology saving wildlife , you know passionate I, and the other volunteers at Hearts Afire are about these sweet creatures.