Our Deer Friends During COVID

In May, when I drove around the fruit trees by our house, I noticed a single doe mule deer in the orchard at different times. I thought how unusual to see one all by herself so often. Later around the end of June, on my way out of the house, I looked up and saw a mama deer with young twin fawns.

When she saw me, she stood up, and the fawns started nursing. She stared at me, and I stared at her. I couldn’t believe such a sweet sight so close to our house! I then recalled my single doe sightings and connected that she’s the one. She must have chosen to have her babies here after evaluating our home and orchard as a safe place. I’ve come to think of this little family as our dear friends during COVID.

Watching this deer mama and her fawns is a unique experience because, as fruit farmers, we try to keep deer away. We have a deer fence just for that purpose! Somehow Emma (I named her) found a way inside. We don’t encourage her, but we don’t discourage her either. It’s nice to have them around. We lost our dog, Felicity of 16 years, in May. Our social life is slim picken’s during this pandemic, but we do have Emma and her twins.

The fawns have started foraging, and they like my carpet roses. Roses are a deer delicacy, but I don’t even care! I find this little family a reassuring sight during this strange COVID experience. Bill is equally pleased by their presence. I asked him how it is for him since he’s a farmer. “It’s about the cuteness factor. If they weren’t so cute, I wouldn’t want them so close.” Bill also confided that he worries the fawns will grow up not to fear humans.

The twins Harriet and Henry must be about two months old based on their size and reddish coloring with spots. The spots give the fawns camouflage protection from preditors. Emma leaves them hidden while she forages for food.

Almost every evening, as we’re chatting somewhere outside, we’ll be oblivious until one of us spots the fawns’ ears. A couple of nights ago, we were sharing a warm bag of M&Ms that Bill had found in his truck. Such a find! We were so absorbed in our conversation and chocolate. Then I turned around, and there were Harriet and Henry! In their nestled position under the trees, they were quietly watching us. We instantly stop and take in the moment. Even chocolate doesn’t compare to this moment.

Emma will sometimes take a break also. The cool wooded area with sprinklers behind our house is her favorite. She usually lays down about fifty feet away from her fawns and quietly relaxes while chewing her cud. Deer eat a lot of food at one time then digest it later. She probably had a full meal of fruit tree leaves from our orchard, which she needs for her nursing twins. Luckily for my landscaping, I have a lot of lavender and Russian sage, which is not her preferred deer snack.

I’m guessing this is Emma’s second fawn family. Mature does often have twins. Emma’s first family was probably a single fawn.

When Emma’s ready to move on, she gathers her family, and they usually head up the mountain (Deer Mountain, named well) behind our house. I get that she needs to live her best deer life. I’m grateful that she’s sharing a little bit of it with us so we can observe some of their peacefulness. The physical and mental benefits we glean from watching Emma and her twins from a distance is a form of nature therapy. She’s our deer friend and stress relief during these days of COVID headlines and worries.