Selections from Eddies for Outdoorsmen
First Steps of a Fawn
When our two children were preschoolers, my wife and I began taking them along on backpacking trips. Once the four of us joined my brother Dean for a few days on the Loyalsock Trail in northern Pennsylvania. We started in Worlds End State Park and hiked to route 220.
As we were plodding along one day, Dean stopped in his tracks and said softly, “I smell deer.” All of us stopped and gazed intently around us as we sniffed the air. I was not familiar with the smell of deer, but I could easily detect an odor similar to that of horses. After surveying the area for some time we spied a newborn fawn lying in the leaves by a tree stump not far from the trail. His natural camouflage made him very difficult to see as he lay there quietly watching us. If we had not stopped and looked carefully over the area we would have completely missed this wonderful experience.
Although we stood there for some time peering into every nook of the forest around us, we never got a glimpse of his mother. I’m sure she was hiding somewhere nearby with her ears perked up, anxiously waiting for us to leave so she could rejoin her fawn. Eventually the little fellow got to his feet, perhaps for the first time, and walked slowly away from us. We turned and continued on our trail. Although we left him there, we carry him in our memory forever.
There is something about baby animals that makes us want to pick them up and cuddle them. Maybe it’s because they seem so helpless and vulnerable in a wild and hostile environment. We usually give birth to our babies in a sterile environment with the assistance of medical professionals and modern equipment. Perhaps we tend to overlook the miracle that takes place at childbirth. Sometimes we forget how much longer it takes for our own offspring to get to their feet and take those first steps. If it is the helplessness of these little ones that brings out the tenderness in us, then our own infants should be the most loved and cared for of all species. Most of the time, I suppose that is the case.
Have you ever watched robins pulling worms out of the ground? Sometimes they appear to be pulling with all their strength. However, I am convinced that they are really not pulling very hard at all. Earthworms are very tender and can be torn in two very easily. The robins are simply using the same technique that I used when I collected worms to use for bait.
When I was a youngster, my brothers and I would occasionally go out after dark to collect night crawlers. Often when we tried to pick up a worm, we would discover that one end of it was securely anchored in a hole in the ground. If you pulled just a little too hard the worm would tear apart and you would have only a small piece of it. But if you pulled gently and kept the worm stretched for a few seconds, it would soon become tired and relax its grip on the hole. Then you could pull the entire worm out of the hole.
I have noticed that robins also seem to be quite skilled in getting whole worms out of worm holes. I suppose it is even more difficult for them to get an entire worm, since they are gripping them with sharp beaks rather than soft fingers. If they bite down just a little too hard they will cut the worm in two and loose the part in the ground. Somehow they have learned that being gentle pays off.