Our hayfield was her home.
The fence builders said they saw a small spotted fawn there as they worked. After we moved into the house in August, we saw it feeding and playing there every day. Other deer jumped the fence, grazed, or bedded down beside it for a while, and then jumped out. But the fawn stayed.
Summer progressed. She grew bigger, lost her spots, but stayed on. We knew she was female because she squatted to pee. While we saw her daily, she never seemed bothered by us as we went about our business. Even our dogs seemed to ignore her.
Several neighbors stopped to ask if we had a pet deer. I told them the deer was wild, well able to jump our five-foot fence, but we guessed she’d just rather stay there. It’s illegal in West Virginia, or in any state, to keep wild animals or birds without a permit. Many folks break the law when they see a fawn with no mother nearby, thinking it’s abandoned. But most of the time the mother is nearby. Besides, deer don’t make good pets, and wild animals belong in the wild.
As time passed, we got used to seeing the fawn, but she didn’t want to know us. If we entered the hayfield, she fled in high, arcing leaps. We left her alone because scaring or chasing her would only stress the deer. The hayfield had plenty of natural deer food and habitat, but I kept a full bucket of drinking water there, which she never seemed to touch. We kept hoping she would clear the fence along with the other deer.
One October day, I looked up from cutting grass just as a huge truck came down the road over the hill. It was hauling a big horse barn. The deer was standing in the field just inside the fence. Startled by the looming monstrosity, the fawn cleared the fence in one great bound, landing in the road. The truck just missed her. We didn’t see her afterwards and felt relieved.
But after a few days, she came back. With winter coming, we worried she wouldn’t find enough to eat and become too weak to jump, or that hunters would shoot her like a fish in a barrel. But hunting season came and hunters never bothered her.
The West Virginia natural resources police received several complaints from people who mistakenly believed we had a pet deer. I told them just what I told the neighbors. I called the district wildlife manager’s office and somebody was going to call back about possibly tranquilizing the deer and releasing it elsewhere. But we haven’t seen the little hayfield deer since the big snow in January. I’ve walked around in the brushy, rocky areas and found no sign, except old tracks of a big deer that jumped the fence.
We needn’t have worried. She jumped out when she was ready!