Last Wednesday afternoon in Craig, the little city in northern Colorado, an 85-year-old woman was walking her dog near Sunset Meadows, behind the elementary school, when she came upon a doe with two fawns and apparently startled the adult mule deer, which attacked and badly injured her.
The woman was taken to the hospital. That evening, Parks and Wildlife officers found the doe and fawns less than a quarter mile away, on the west side of the city, captured them, killed the doe and sent the fawns to a rehabilitation center.
The doe was euthanized as a matter of its policy, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said, to “protect public safety,” which means people. That is a complete explanation that was still bound to leave many wondering why the animal had to die. It was a mother protecting her young. Its behavior was predictable (“extremely aggressive,” Parks and Wildlife said) – but so was the woman’s. To startle the doe, she would not have to come on it blind; she could have given it a berth and still inadvertently crossed between the animal and her fawns; and worse, from the doe’s perspective, with a dog.
The doe also could not be relocated somewhere safer because, “In a state with a growing human population, those areas are getting harder and harder to find,” CPW Northwest spokesman Mike Porras told The Craig Daily Press.
On Thursday, in Golden, just west of Denver, a motorcyclist struck a deer on Interstate 70 and was lucky to suffer only minor injuries. The doe, which was pregnant, was mortally wounded but was able to deliver a live fawn. A Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy wrapped the newborn in a blanket and cared for it until Parks and Wildlife arrived, which we imagine consisted of keeping it warm and still, and saying, “Hey little guy, what do you think of this world?” while the fawn wondered whether this bearded man could be its mother.
There is a story, perhaps it is a myth, that the young obtain a perfect knowledge of god and the universe just before they are born and then, at the last minute, an angel knocks that sense out of them and they come into the world and begin again, striving to recover it.
Parks and Wildlife said the Golden miracle fawn would be raised and returned to the wild, which is an amazing feat, assuming there is room for it in the wild in Colorado by the time it knows it is a mule deer.
On Friday, a Colorado Springs TV station reported that local Parks and Wildlife is “overwhelmed with orphaned fawns,” with two more arriving that day, both found at different places on Highway 24. Those youngsters were due to be sent to the nonprofit Wet Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, in Wetmore, which is run by two retired Pueblo schoolteachers who are doing the angels’ work on their property.
Parks and Wildlife said Wet Mountain was getting full of orphaned wild animals. That is seasonal and seems almost mathematical. As more humans flock to Colorado, partly because the state has parts that are still open and wild enough to support some mule deer, there are going to be more orphaned animals and unfortunate wildlife encounters. Mule deer, and not just mule deer, are drawn to places of human habitation and their signs such as mowed fields and gardens and the open spaces we prize and preserve in our midst. Because it is also their world we are taking, and because we have done a good job of eliminating many of their other, natural predators, sometimes we end up raising their children.