Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Late this afternoon there was a rustling around in the dry leaves outside the fence at the Fire Island house. That particular sound can only be a bird rooting around for bugs or a passing deer, and when I went down the walk to look there was a small doe, quite young-looking, staring through the wire fence at me with that look that seems to ask if food is about to be offered. We were only staying a few hours so we hadn't brought much, but I went in and got a handful of raisins for her. When I went outside the gate, I walked toward her, and she toward me on the shady deer path under the bamboo. She was slowed down by a bum hind leg, so she wobbled a little as she walked, and just as she got close to me she got nervous and hopped clumsily into the bamboo. I knelt down and held my hand out, and in a while she brought her face nearer to sniff, reached her mouth toward the fruit, and bit me on the finger. I think it was that she wasn't clear about what was food and what wasn't, and the idea of licking something from my palm seemed foreign to her.

The bite only hurt enough to wake me up thoroughly, and actually I liked finding out that deer's teeth are very flat on top; they must be perfect for their assigned work, tearing up leaves. It did startle me though, and the raisins wound up on the ground. I think she enjoyed them.

I should add that I know perfectly well you aren't supposed to feed wildlife. The Pines is a special case; a contained little population, no cars, no predators, and the deer just thread their way through human lives, sometimes interested, often indifferent. (When we walked up on the boardwalk to the beach at sunset, a stag walked right underneath our feet, just pausing for a moment to glance up at us before moving on.) Somehow it doesn't seem quite accurate to think of them as "wild"; they're citizens of a different species, and they're already deeply involved with us, and there's no wild state to go back to.

1 comment:

Nancy Devine said...

my husband and i splinted the leg of a baby deer our dogs injured on the edge of the woods on our minnesota property. we used a piece of wood, burlap for wrapping young trees and, of course, duct tape.
i was quite pathetic in my dealings with the animal. my husband held it and we set the leg; then we used the materials we had and made a kind of gray boot for it. we took it back into the woods and set it free. (the fawn barely came up to my knee.)
i know you're not supposed to interact so closely with wildlife, but our dogs were the cause of the injury.
last summer, a huge buck came out of those same woods, stood in a clearing and hissed at us.
i suspect the two incidents are not related.