Spring Blossom

Posted on April 18, 2017

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Like the unfolding bloom of a delicate flower, which suddenly bursts forth without warning from its dormant bud, a baby fawn enters the world. The unblemished innocence of this new arrival invigorates a sense of vitality rooted in all of us. We are instantly captivated with the sight of it, watching in wonderment as the infant unsteadily attempts to walk, and we inwardly smile when the fawn nuzzles up to mother and begin to nurse. Why the fascination? Perhaps it’s because warm recollections become aroused from our own parental nurturing, or possibly it stems from knowing the struggles this baby deer will encounter along the way to maturity. Whatever the reason may be, one thing is for certain, babies have a unique way of stirring involuntary emotions.

Beyond observing the birth of my own two children, no other visual experience has gratified me more than seeing firsthand the birth of a fawn. To be a reticent spectator of this phenomenon of nature would have been exhilarating enough, but it became even more extraordinary when I was able to sequentially capture the parturition on film. Needless to say, it was a day that will ever be treasured in my collection of fond memories……..

Labor

It was approximately 7:30 a.m. when I first spotted the doe in her bed. Shortly after my arrival, she rose to her feet and began licking at her flanks. Although it was barely audible from where I stood, the expectant mother was emitting soft guttural moans. By now it was obvious that she was in the first stage of labor. For the next two hours her behavior would vacillate from feeding to sporadically licking at her flanks, tugging at her out-stretched tail and restlessly pacing. As her contractions intensified, she would temporarily bed to help alleviate her visible discomfort, only to once again rise up and arch her back to brace for the next wave of pain. Make no mistake about it; the birthing process is no easy task for a female of any species.

By 9:30 a.m. the doe seemed to relax and showed little sign of an impending birth other than her bulging sides. Now I was faced with a dilemma. This was Father’s day and I promised my wife I would meet her and the kids at church for the 10:15 service. Do I stay with this doe in hopes of witnessing a birth or should I depart with the reassuring thought that this may not take place for hours?

 

While I contemplated what to do, the doe got up and moved further away from where I was positioned. I anxiously looked at my watch once more, which read 9:45. A decision had to be made now if I was going to make the service. It’s difficult to explain the nudging or still-small voice that was encouraging me at this moment to stay. All I can tell you is I listened to it and remained with the doe. When she lay back down again at 10-o-clock and showed no sign of birthing, it appeared as though I’d blown it.

 

The Delivery

Five minutes later, at precisely 10:05, the whole scene changed dramatically. The doe got up and positioned herself as if she was about to urinate, but instead of passing urine, clear mucus-like fluid began to be expelled. It wasn’t long after her water broke that two little white hooves emerged, alleviating any misgivings I may have had about staying. We were about to have a birth.

The doe lied back down on her side and began to push. Her facial features revealed the obvious pain associated with this undertaking. Strenuous moans verbalized the struggle with each strained attempt to force the fawn down the birth canal.

 

Progress was slow at first, but with each successive push more of the fawn slid into view. I could now see most of the front legs, the nose and part of the fawn’s face protruding out of a very dilated vaginal tract. After several minutes of this arduous labor the doe stood up. When she did, all but the fawn’s legs retracted from sight. She licked at her flanks and vaginal area as if wondering herself where the baby had disappeared. Once she was back on her side again it seemed she was more determined than ever to extract this fawn. With the intestinal fortitude born of maternal instinct, the doe readily began pushing, straining and grunting with renewed vigor.

 

When she stood this time, the fawn’s entire head and shoulders were visible. What a sight, the front half of a fully developed fawn dangling precariously from the rear of its mother. As I watched this baby deer swing like a pendulum, still attached to its mother that was now circling in place, many thoughts went through my head.

Here is an animal giving birth without the aid of a doctor or mid-wife. She is doing so without any formal training or surgical instruments. Nothing has been sterilized and instead of a sanitary hospital room, her birthing area consisted of the ground she now occupied.

From this point on, the completion of the birth advanced very quickly. After a couple of turns by the doe, gravity took over and the outstretched offspring slid completely out hitting the ground at 10:25.

 

Post-Natal Care

Immediately the doe turned to her fawn and cleared away the amniotic sac from around its face. She then began to feverishly lick the newborn. After a couple of robust tongue-washings, the fawn began to move. I’ve got to believe she was relieved to see her offspring showing signs of life; I know I was.

 

For a full forty-five minutes, mother continued to vigorously lick and wash her newborn completely ignoring her own obvious needs. Even after all of the exhausting physical trauma experienced to bring this baby safely into the world, her motherly instincts placed the fawn’s immediate needs above her own.


Finally, at 11:15 the doe felt satisfied enough to lie down next to the infant and begin tending to some of her own requirements. She alternated between cleaning herself and licking her baby. I felt just as paranoid watching this fawn try to stand as I did when my kids asserted their first independent steps. Several failed attempts were not going to deter this fawn from mastering its initial accomplishment. After ten minutes of practice, the fawn gained its footing and wobbly pranced around mother, occasionally using her body to steady itself.

One hour after its birth, the fawn intuitively got down on its front knees and nursed. The doe continued to lick her baby; only now her washings were more of nurture than they were to clean. She appeared rather pleased and content at that moment, retrospective feelings engendered from bonding with a life completely dependent on you.

With all of the fawn’s immediate needs met, the doe set about to remove all evidence of what had taken place. She meticulously pulled at the afterbirth still inside her, chewed and swallowed it. Once she finished tidying herself up, the doe got up and licked all of the fluids from the ground and under story.

At 12:10, two hours and ten minutes after the labor began; the only evidence verifying that a fawn was birthed was in the newborn’s presence, on my film and forever etched in my memory.

To read the entire story and a whole lot more, go to http://www.bigwhitetail.com to purchase a copy of, The Deer Tracker’s Journey.

All images and text on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier
© 2017 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer