By Melanie Scott
There never seems to be a shortage. They threaten the safety of drivers on the highway, especially at night. The chew on azaleas in summer. They poop on walking trails. They’re a dime a dozen, and are especially delicious when cooked over a low heat in red wine, garlic, and herbes de Provence for many hours, served with a light green salad and chewy baguette on the side.
But then you get to know them a little more intimately, and your heart skips a beat when they appear unannounced, their beauty taking your breath away.
The deer population in the Hills has always been healthy (the Gatineau Park is home to 2,000 of them), and we probably take them for granted because they’re so plentiful. The five who have been prancing around the woods near our house this winter included a doe and fawn who came closer than all the others, hungry for the pine boughs that grow low enough for them to reach. On a recent drive down Hwy 366, a dead deer was observed at the side of the road. Normally, this would be just another mammal fatality among many, but when the fawn turned up the next day, sans Mum, the image was enough to cause one to sigh and (almost) shed a tear. Bambi is probably old enough to get by, and managed to track down the small dip in the snow it shared with its mum at nap time. But there’s just something so darned pathetic about an orphaned fawn.
Meanwhile, a Lac Simon resident who sets out feed for deer in her yard in winter observed one of her regulars who’d managed to get its head stuck in a bucket. As if scrounging for sustenance wasn’t hard enough in this long, harsh winter; the deer is still at large, and has gone without food or water for nine days.
Last September, the Low Down reported that a kindly Chelsea resident had attempted to rescue a young deer after it was struck by a car. Its suffering was halted when an MRC des Collines police officer took charge and euthanized the deer.
Outdoor Canada estimates that Quebec’s current deer population runs somewhere around 400,000 – meaning there will be good pickings come hunting season next fall. Despite this year’s seemingly endless winter, the deer are faring well. So, as said, we’ve got plenty, and the losses through unfortunate incidents or at the end of a hunting rifle won’t even make a dent in the numbers. But when they start hanging around your back yard, and you start making note of their specific markings and maybe even start giving them names, you’re on a slippery slope towards becoming a sap, no matter how much of a carnivore you are.
On Tuesday morning, Bambi was seen sleeping in its preferred dip, breathing in the fresh winter air. The temptation was to go outside and hug it. Then bring it home for dinner.