Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Lonely Guy



I’m seeing a lot of deer on my walks these days. I get out pretty early, before 6 AM, which seems to be prime time for foraging. There aren’t many people in the park at that hour, so I’m often the first biped on the trail, and I run across little groups of whitetail on their way to wherever it is they go. They always move as if they have a destination in mind.

The deer aren’t tame, but there’s no hunting in the park, so they stay pretty relaxed. When they encounter people they usually run a short distance, and then stop to look back with a “Why are you here?” expression. Occasionally I’ll come upon one lying down among the trees, and since I’m quiet, they usually just twitch a little and stay put.

A couple of weeks ago I startled a young buck, and he returned the favor by bleating at me. Deer aren’t generally noisy, so his outburst made me jump. He ran about 20 feet away and bleated again. He seemed quite ticked off. If he’d been a big guy with a full rack of antlers it might have made me a tad nervous—bucks do (very rarely) charge at people. But he was just a teenager with little velvety nubs on his head, so I laughed and walked on.

Since then I’ve run across him several times, always near the same spot, always alone. He has bleated and snorted in my direction almost every time. Two days ago, not really thinking about the fact that I was in his neighborhood, I walked off the trail and followed one of the many deer paths about 30 yards into the woods—technically forbidden, but you all know what a scofflaw I am. I was just standing there listening to the birds when I heard something rustling behind me. I looked around, and yep, it was my buddy.

I turned away and ignored him. After a minute, I heard some more rustling and I realized he was moving closer. Then more rustling and he was closer yet—not more than 10 feet from me. He stayed right there, just watching me. I could hear him breathing. Maybe he was feeling territorial and was letting me know it, but I think he was also a little lonely and bored. Bucks have a pretty solitary life most of the time, and this one is probably living his first year without Mama. Too young to compete for a mate, he’s forced to get used to being alone. It must be tough.

It reminds me of watching birds bring their fledglings to my feeders. Daddy (it’s usually the male) will deposit the kid nearby and patiently fly back and forth with the seed, while the chick flaps its little wings and cheeps for more. But a moment always comes when the grown-up goes deaf to the chick’s demands. He’ll just begin to feed himself, or fly away altogether. The chicks will often go on crying for what seems like a long time. Nature is full of necessary suffering.

5 comments:

pitbull friend said...

Oh, and it's so sad when the babies are almost ready to be fledged and the parents look so worn out. I remember a cardinal family -- Mom, Dad, & two girls. By the end of the summer, both girls were bigger than Dad, due to all of his hard work. Folks (and birds) need to remember that nature wants the kids fledged, already!

Arhianrad said...

Fledging is such a lonely process...

Maria, I've never been so close to a deer before, at least in the wild!

Renee said...

I would love to be so close to a deer that I could hear it breathe! I think that deer was a visitation.

BitterGrace said...

Maybe he was, Renee. I sorta looked for him this morning, but he was nowhere to be found. I guess visions don't come when called.

It always hurts a little to see the babies separate--I can't help feeling sorry for them, even though it has to happen. Did you know that bluebird chicks sometimes hang around and help the parents with their next brood? I had a bluebird family like that one summer. It was sweet to watch.

chayaruchama said...

what a magnificent fella...
He makes me swoon.
To hear him, smell him...
A gift.