Tuesday, December 10, 2013

tales of hidden lives

i never have written a post about my deer, have i?
well. where to start. early 2011, jan/feb/march, i got to know the local deer herd who calls the fields and woods by my house (in ohio) their home. there's over 40 individuals if i remember the last count at one of their winter dusk-time meetups... and there are numerous subgroups, likely with mothers and their fawns. there are a few large bucks, and while the younger/smaller bucks come closer and further out of the woods, the largest of the males stay far away, ever watchful but wary.

i take walks almost every day, and more than once a day during summer, and so i have gotten to know their families, faces, groups, and subgroups very well. i am already versed in cetacean identification, but in some ways, deer are even harder. they change appearance during the course of the year, and their movements become less visible during summer months. this creates some confusion or lack of sightings sometimes. when winter rolls around, or "fuzzy deer season", i always celebrate because i know that the deer will be out more, more visible, and easier to identify. their markings are much more pronounced on their winter coats, and their colours are richer, making it simpler to separate them by colour shade. (some deer are much darker than others, some have redder coats in winter, some greyer, some browner, etc. in summer it's more uniform, but still there are slight variations)

i have named and catologued at least 15 of the deer i have positive identifications on through photos or repeated sightings, and i have plenty more that i need to assign names and alphanumerical designations to. i give them a number (in sequence from when i first assigned the number) and the prefix NR, for North Ridgeville (the town in which i live, and they live) since i'm the only one spending any real time studying and watching the herd, it isn't a priority to sort out all the faces in the photos i've taken. but, in the field, in my head, i have names for many more than i've written down.
the main deer i run into the most, what would be the main cast of characters if this was a television show (like meerkat manor...), are as follows:

NR1 Roger (younger buck; the first time i encountered him he had only one antler, and the one he had left was chipped at the end. his face is very youthful and the corner of his mouth makes him look like he's smiling)

NR2 Crimson (very handsome buck, one of my favourites; his coat turns bright cinnamon in the winter. his expression is suave; he looks like he knows he's handsome.)

NR4 Mosaic (lead doe, very watchful and wise, short and plump and she has very small rounded ears, round face, and scarred coat. i think of her as the oldest of the herd, and she is my favourite. i just feel connected to her. i always smile when i see her in the bunch. she's like the granny figure of the herd-- like granny j2 of the southern resident orcas. when everyone is bolting away, i can always tell where she is due to her stubby tail-- she's got half a tail, and the fuzz isn't as long as the other deer's tails. )

NR8 Lori (other lead doe, she is masculine in form and has a very heavy, unique step. she has a stern, boxy face and a tiny white speckle between her eyes. she's a character and i love her! she works in tandem with mosaic when they're together, but can hold her own while mosaic isn't around.)

NR10 Recon (one of the largest bucks, i've seen him and crimson hang together. recon is just massive and he honestly looks like a weathered but handsome military officer)

NR7 Serena was a lead doe with a lovely fawn brink NR12. serena was absolutely beautiful, and so unique looking. she had high set eyes, a long face, and one of the most endearing markings on her face was a little snip of white above her nose in the black triangle.
she, lori, sedge, and mosaic were a team of strong ladies. these lead does were brilliantly watchful together, and they really seemed like they knew each other well. serena and mosaic stuck together.
i haven't seen serena since 2011, and i miss her dearly. she was just a wonderful presence. 
i got to know her during the winter of 2011, but by the time the snow fell in late 2012, she was no longer with the herd. i haven't seen her since. i only hope she didn't meet her end by car or gun.
serena was a caring mother to her fawn brink NR12 and a dedicated and observant lead doe. she was outstandingly the leader in her subgroup, and she was ever watchful. she was cautious but never too afraid. 
she struck me as such a unique sort of beauty than the other does-- her high-set, calm eyes were soulful. her long face made her profile and face-on view much different than the rest. she was graceful and serene looking-- hence her name. 
i often think of her and miss her presence as i see her old subgroup moving across the fields at dusk. sometimes i imagine she's still out there, hiding among the trees at the edge of the clearing, still watching me with those deep, knowing eyes. she always had a sort of fantastic presence... perhaps she still moves silently through the woods, making paths i will never trace. 

Rose, Cadet, Huck

NR13 Rose 
(a thin, tall doe with a kind but cautious face. she's one doe who i constantly see all year long, and she is mother of NR14 and NR15)
NR14 Cadet (sex unknown, but a sort of timid young thing. cadet looks SO MUCH like their mother, it's almost scary. like, you can totally tell rose is their mother)
NR15 Huckleberry (huck for short. lil young buck who hasn't grown antlers yet. he's curious and wide-eyed, and is a lighter colour than his sibling or mother. however, his face is similar to his mother's so you can tell the relation)
the family of rose, cadet, and huckleberry i have known for years. while looking through my photos from last winter, i found a photo and something struck me: i knew those faces! it takes a bit of sleuthing to figure out who's who in winter vs summer, and for me, it's worlds easier to identify them in winter. their markings are more pronounced (sometimes certain markings only show up on winter coats!) and colours are richer. 
Rose, Huck in front, Cadet behind him
these two fawns (well, yearlings/young adults) i have encountered before, and they're really inquisitive. i think huck is more so than his sibling. 

this photo is from 2011 when i encountered them without rose, their mother. huck is in front. his lighter coat has always stood out, and it's easy to see in the first photo.  he looks pastel compared to his mousy mother and fawn sibling. both the fawns, though, look SO much like their mother. you can definitely tell they are related. i hope they survive for years to come, so i can see huck's antlers grow and rose bear new fawns to add to the family. 

each deer is an individual being, with a personality different than the others. i have seen spring fawns being led by their mothers, bucks dueling in autumn, yearlings prancing around and playing with each other, families foraging at dusk... getting to know these beings has been one of the most rewarding, eye-opening, and heartwarming parts of my life. i wish, so desperately, that i could go back in time and bring all my friends and family to stand silently in the snow at dusk on the quiet, frigid nights i stood watching the procession of the mosaic's herd, her wise steps guiding them to their nightly haunts. 
i wish i could bring my loved ones to the hour i spent with rose and her family that one late summer day, watching rose step and snort towards me, wary and nervous. 
i wish i could share my deer friends with everyone, i wish i could show the world how precious and unique each of their lives is. 

it is so important to acknowledge all living beings as individuals, with personal desires, dislikes, needs, emotions... we must learn to break down society's hardened and sky-high wall of speciesism, and begin to extend our compassion, respect, and kindness towards ALL life. only then will we be on the path to peace. only then will we begin to right our numerous wrongs.

i encourage you to get to know your own local deer beings, for they have much to teach you-- you need only listen.

~Peace always,

Huck, Cadet, Rose 

1 comment:

Marshall Weber said...

Hey Kristina!
Congratulations – I would like to nominate you for the Versatile Blogger Award! I have nominated you because I believe your writing is truly unique. If you would like to accept this nomination, you can find more information about the award in my blog post I wrote about it: http://apassionforbirds.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/versatile-blogger-award/. Hope all is well since Hog Island!