Unlike other winters in my area, it seems I have a couple of regular visitors to my backyard deer feeder this year.
Back in early December coyotes claimed a deer in my neighboring property; leaving a 6-month old orphan buck fawn to fend for itself.
This little guy was wandering around aimlessly in the backfields for a couple of weeks and I feared for the worse. There was another lone doe back there I captured on trail cam and I had hopes he might eventually team up with her.
(As many people know, a fawn on its own the first winter is quite vulnerable)
But it never happened – the loan doe actually seemed to shun him, from what I could tell, so a new ‘adopted mother’ idea was out of the question.
Then by the end of December there was another deer in the back that caught my eye. It was a 3.5 year old buck I know very well. He was actually the biggest 8-pointer I have in the back, and you may have seen in earlier posts from last summer and fall.
I call him Andrew.
Well, poor Andrew wasn’t looking very good at all. He had already dropped his antlers and was acting rather peculiar (they usually shed in mid-late Jan)
I could see from trailcam images that he always held one hind leg up while feeding, and then when I saw him in person it all became very clear.
(It is worth noting that by this time of year my deer have usually moved to the upper fields to yard. I have not fed deer regularly the last two winters)
Anyhow, Andrew had what appeared to be a broken ankle. It was right above his hoof and caused him grief when walking. He had a terrible limp and walked very gingerly on the bum leg. (Had his front leg been broken instead, he’d be much better off.)
It was not the healthy and bold buck I knew from the fall, he was now a wounded soldier.
Over the next week or so, both the fawn and gimpy Andrew appeared at my deer feeder with some regularity, until eventually they started hanging out together and the oddest thing began to happen…
From observing their behavior (usually through binoculars) into January, I could see that the fawn was started to serve as Andrew’s eyes and ears. The buck would bed down while the fawn stood guard. When it came time to feed, though, hierarchy took over and the buck would nudge the fawn out of the way from time to time.
Never-the-less, they continued to travel together fulltime from the bedding area back to my feeder, and around the fields about twice a day. (Andrew’s limp has improved slightly) They make the oddest team I’ve ever seen but it appears to be working.
The unlikely duo has so far been able to stay one step ahead of the coyotes too, which is incredible.
It is one ‘symbiotic relationship’ I have never before witnessed and there’s no telling how long it will last.
It does; however, demonstrate how resilient white-tailed deer can be; learning to adapt to situations presented to them. I know I will probably take heat from some readers for continuing to provide supplemental feed for deer during the winter, but that’s ok.
Speaking of winter feeding, here’s a photo of a nice cow elk that feeds at Carol K’s place:
Here’s another pic of the same elk..Carol K says this cow has no problem hopping over that (Goat/sheep pen) fence the elk is standing beside.