Fawn closeup in snow

Ruff, looking rather rough (click on any of the images to enlarge)

Most mornings our six-member deer family gathers on the lawn outside our kitchen window for an hour or so, browsing, ruminating, grooming and relaxing in our dog-free zone (one of very few in our neighbourhood).

But for several days this week, something was decidedly wrong. Reddy the fawn was there with his mom, Scarlet, but his twin brother Ruff was missing.

Winter is tough on fawns and only about half survive their first year. All of Scarlet’s three fawns from 2015, ’16 and ’18 died before their first birthday. Her only offspring to survive thus far have been twins LB and LG, now two and a half. We’ve been keeping our fingers crossed that Ruff and Reddy, born last summer, will survive. Ruff’s absence was therefore worrisome, especially with a heavy snowfall, low temperatures and strong winds in the forecast.

For the next two days the family arrived on schedule each morning, but still no Ruff. So when he finally appeared outside our window on the third afternoon, we were relieved – though no less worried.  It had snowed heavily by then and it must have been bewildering for the poor little tyke, all alone in a landscape that was no longer recognizable.

Fawn struggling to walk through snow

He looked cold and confused, and was shaking all over, likely with the cold. All we could offer was a bowl of barley, apples and sympathy, which seemed appreciated. He hung out for a long time, watching us through the window as if seeking reassurance. His family didn’t appear – perhaps they were huddled under a cedar tree, keeping each other warm. I wished I could lead Ruff into the shelter of our woodshed, but of course that was impossible.

Fawn in heavy snow, eating an apple

For another two days, the pattern was repeated. The rest of the family came in the morning, while Ruff arrived in the afternoon, still alone. It seemed he might perish before they could find each other. The weather was worsening and while he seemed to gain some strength from our food and company, we could see what he really needed was his own family. Without his daily grooming from Scarlet and Reddy, Ruff’s fur was unkempt – not a good sign in a fawn, especially with more snow and 40-knot winds in the forecast.

So you can imagine how happy we were yesterday afternoon when we looked out the window and spotted Ruff, looking freshly groomed, healthy and – best of all – accompanied by his mom, brother and big sister. Finally, the family was back together! It was cause for relief and celebration – and an apple for everyone.

Doe and two fawns eating apples in the snow

Ruff between Reddy and Scarlet – a sweet reunion.

About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Focused on nature and the BC coast

10 responses »

  1. chloerivs says:

    A blog with beautiful pictures of animals? The one thing I didn’t know my day needed to be complete. I am so excited to browse through the other posts! Thank you so much for sharing these, I’m so happy I found this blog ♥

  2. To feed the deer or not? Hard question to answer on Gabriola. Why?

    • Hi Paul, thanks for the comment. I often hesitate to blog about my furry family because the topic of deer is so politicized on our island and the last thing I want to do is add fuel to anyone’s fire. The longer I’ve been watching, studying and recording the comings/goings, births/deaths, interactions and unique characteristics of the individuals that have made up our little deer family over the years, the more I believe that a great many of the “facts” expressed are based on misconceptions or a lack of real data. They are lovely and amazing animals and we feel honoured to spend time in their company.

  3. Donald W. Wilson says:

    Some lovely photos of an interesting group of visitors. Don

  4. Sherry G. says:

    What a beautiful story illustrated so gloriously by your photographs! You had me gripped until the end. I was rooting for Ruff and family and it was so good to see them all together. Your blog always connects me more to those small things that all add up to help understand and appreciate our environment! Thank you.

    • Good to hear from you, and thanks for the lovely comment, Sherry. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Ruff and the family – we still have a few months of winter they need to get through. Last year Scarlet’s little fawn “Lively” seemed fine until mid-March, before falling ill and dying. Life is so tenuous for these gentle beings!

  5. Susan Yates says:

    Even tho’ I know deer are kind of out-of-control on Gabriola, I love reading about your family, and I am so relieved Ruff’s story ends happily! And I always look forward to anyone’s comments about a dog-free area; now that is one animal that is totally out of control on Gabriola…I am beginning to loathe them…and their duffle-headed owners who worship dogs over wildlife.

    Thank you Laurie! Susan >

    • LOL, there certainly are a lot of dogs on our island! I grew up with a dog and loved her dearly, and I can understand other people feeling the same about their dogs. But in rural areas that are home to wildlife such as deer (who were, let’s face it, here first), the number of dogs – and the fact that so many are allowed to roam free – is definitely a problem. Thanks for commenting, Susan, and glad you enjoyed the post.

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