The Unnecessary Death of a Doe

*image courtesy of John Deal*

We've had a death here in the forest and we are devastated. Last weekend we went out for a hike on a lovely afternoon. I was taking pictures in the woods thinking about the nice light post I was going to make on the blog here about the beauty of this time of year. Deep in the forest at the top of a crest, my husband looked down and saw that the water in the creek was red. That's when he saw her. A doe was sitting in the water silently still. She looked at us and we at her and there we stood for a time.

John slowly scaled the ravine making calming noises as he approached her. For a moment she got scared and tried to run but fell just next to the water and laid down. John sat there with her for some time, talking to her gently. He reached out his hand to her and moved in slowly. He placed a hand on her hoof. And then backed away for a moment. While this was happening John was speaking to me as I stood up on the edge of the ravine with the children. We could see that she had been injured and we agreed that I should return to the house to call for help.

The children and I walked back to the house while John tried to calm her and gain her trust. He placed his hand on her hoof again, still talking quietly to her as though she were his child. Then he moved away from her again. When he approached the next time he came from behind her and touched her ear gently and then backed away once more to give her room and to give her a chance to think about his touch and presence. He approached her a final time. This time he stroked her neck. The doe relaxed and laid her head down in his lap.

Back at the house, I phoned animal services and they dispatched someone to come and try to help. I ran back out to let John know that someone was on the way. When I arrived, he was sitting with the deer's head in his lap. It was clear that she was close to death and we were very sad. I returned to the house and called again to let animal services know that things didn't look hopeful. In a short while a man showed up in a van. He said very little and carried no equipment with him. I took him into the forest and as he approached the edge of the gully, the deer became very afraid and tried to run. John attempted to help her and protect her at the same time resulting in an awkward moment between them. We heard another man call out from the woods. It was a policeman sent to euthanize the doe if necessary. I went to meet him. He was very upset. He told me how much he loved animals. Desiring to help in any way he could, the policeman scaled down to join John. Not knowing what would unfold, I took the children back to the house. The doe passed away in John's arms. John and the policeman pulled the deer up out of the water and into a clearing. And there she lies still.

*image courtesy of John Deal*

John, the policeman and myself were all suspicious of the deer's wound. We worried that she had been shot but on inspection, the exit wound was too clean to be a gunshot. When John returned home he was covered in the doe's blood and saliva. He had a shower and changed his clothes. We stood in the hallway overwhelmed by what had just transpired, and we talked about it. We were still concerned about why and how this had happened. John described a broad tipped bolt to me and how it could have caused her wound. We concluded that someone used a crossbow to shoot her. Moments later the police officer called. He was thinking about it too and he'd come to the same conclusion that we had.

I showed John a photo of the young doe who has been coming to visit us with her family since she was just a fawn. It's her. And now she's dead. I can't even begin to express my outrage about this. And I feel powerless to do anything about it and that's why I'm telling you this sad story. Someone has come into our safe and beautiful forest (protected heritage land) and killed a doe for no reason! This is the animal's home, one of the few safe places left for these majestic creatures. We feel like our home has been violated. We feel like our friend has been killed.

*image courtesy of John Deal*

I know that John was able to offer this beautiful creature some comfort in the painful and confusing last hours of her death. And for that, I am so proud of him. I know this has touched him deeply and that our anger will remain for a long, long time to come.

♥ Andrea ♥

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