The Screaming Deer

My Idaho lot has been given the name The Deer Highway by neighbors who year after year observe deer traversing it between sections of the Payette Forest. While living there full time, I was entranced by the white tail deer who would snack on the field grass, keeping an eye on the girls in the fenced portion of my yard. They were usually in small groups.

Occasionally, to liven things up, the girls would get up and rush the fence, startling the deer into flashing their fluffy white tails and bounding away in big leaps across the field. What a sight!

So imagine my delight when I spy a young white tail out the window of my home office during our recent stay in Idaho. (Can there possibly be a better office view?)

You can't see me but I can see you.
I'm inside, but all three dogs are out in the yard. Thankfully, they don't bark at deer; they prefer to quietly watch. 

The deer is curious, and seems a little surprised; likely the last time she was here, there were no dogs to worry about.

I guess that fence will keep me safe...
Fascinated, I watch as the deer cautiously approaches the dogs' fenced area of the lot. I'm reminded of a similar scene a few years ago, when the girls and I lived here full time. That deer was also fascinated by the girls, and challenged them by coming with a few feet of the fence, snorting at them, running back and forth, stomping its front hooves aggressively.

And then...this deer does the name foot stomping and screaming routine as that deer years ago! I call it a scream, for it sounds like one, or a very high-pitched and forceful snort. Hard to describe. But the message to the dogs is clear: "You're in my territory and you need to be GONE. Now!"

Wait a minute; who are you?
Now the deer notices me through the window, taking photos of her.

I move to another part of the house to see what the dogs are doing. The girls are casually watching the deer's display of bravura from their prone positions in the yard; this became fairly routine during our time here. Finn, though, is standing and on alert; he joined the household just a few months before we moved back to Washington, so this deer encounter is less "normal" for him. I'm hoping he doesn't try to jump the five foot fence to give chase. The deer is probably hoping the same thing.

By the time I get to the other window for a better view of the dogs, the deer has moved closer to their part of the yard. She's getting braver, like an off-leash dog who will approach an on-leash dog, knowing that she has the advantage and can run away should her bravery be misplaced.

Are you dogs? Or wolves?
I've often wondered whether deer take such a keen interest in the girls because they look so much like wolves. Are the deer puzzled that these wolves are penned? Do they see this as their chance to safely get close to a wolf?

There's that human with a camera again.
This deer clearly feels more comfortable confronting the dogs than dealing with me; every time she sees me move through the window, she hesitates and stares, ready to skedaddle.

Okay, I've seen enough.

She decides that discretion is the better part of valor, flashing her tail at us as she departs.
I'm outta here.
I can't help thinking this is a white tail deer's way of flipping us the finger. Her ears are pinned back, like those of an angry horse about to bite or kick.

And away she goes, crossing my lot toward the Payette Forest and safety.

The girls are pretty laid back about it all, never rushing the fence; only Meadow even bothers to stand up. That's mostly a function of their age, I think. Finn takes his cue from the girls, and while he moves near the fence, he never barks at the deer. He seems to have learned from the girls that best way to get to see wildlife up close is to move slowly, remaining calm and quiet.

Works well if you're a human, too.
Rebecca WallickComment