I stepped outside one evening last week to give some stale bread to my granddaughter’s free-range chickens when an unexpected visitor showed up.
Nudging the hungry chickens out of the way was a large doe. Every time one of the four birds went to get a morsel, the doe used her head to push the chick out of the way. But the chickens were not to be intimidated and did quite a bit of squawking and even pecking at the deer’s head. The doe remained unfazed and kept munching on the bread.
I had never been so close to a deer. She was no more than five feet away. I was able to look into her eyes and see expressions on her face. I did not see any ticks on her but they could have been buried in her fur. What struck me most about this creature was the majesty in her demeanor and her ability to look straight at me.
I have spent many hours hunting deer upstate with rifle and bow and arrow but have only seen them alive through scopes and at a distance. I am not opposed to hunting, although I have not hunted in many years. I remember unscrupulous hunters who employed the illegal salt lick to lure the deer and get them in range. Not cool.
Deer can also become aggressive when disturbed or when a fawn is perceived to be in danger. They are powerful animals with strong legs and hard hooves. I remember walking in the woods in the wee hours and interrupting a sleeping deer — lots of snorting and protective flailing behavior. I was knocked over but survived unscathed.
So we must be careful around these creatures, particularly when they live in such close contact with humans. They lose their fear. I know of people who keep baseball bats on their decks to scare deer away. A friend in North Haven swings like DiMaggio to intimidate the deer eating her flowers. Another bangs the bat on the deck to create noise that frightens the animals.
I have learned that it is against the law to feed the deer — they’re creatures of habit and will always come back for more, especially if they are very hungry. My visitor was. Her udder seemed full so she was probably nursing a fawn who was nearby. Another reason to maintain a safe distance.
Research has shown that deer generally stay within a square mile most of their lives. The deer around your house probably live close by and raise their young there.
So what can be done about the proliferation of the deer? We have committees setting guidelines for hunting them and controlling their population — and progress seems to be happening. But we have to be careful.
It’s easy to be seduced into thinking that we can maintain a “peaceable kingdom” in our own yards. It won’t happen. Remember, they’re wild animals and must live that way.
On another subject, I was able to participate in many of the activities available last weekend on this Island. An illuminating talk by David Browne, author of “Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Wild Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup” was presented to a capacity crowd in the library’s lecture room. He used many well known songs to punctuate his talk.
That was Friday night. Then it was back under the tent on Saturday for the library’s yard sale. I proceeded to the Historical Society’s farmers market and picked up some fresh corn and cucumbers.
Then I went to the South Fork to visit exhibitors at the Back Roads Clay Studio Tour. My daughter was showing her pottery in Sag Harbor.
I never made it down to Louis’ Beach for the fireworks but saw them high in the sky from my deck.