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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Fawns Die Despite Rescue Effort

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, May 26, 2006

Williamstown - Three fawns discovered earlier this week near an illegally shot doe have died and several of those involved with the situation are questioning the judgement of the Massachusetts environmental officials who ordered the young animals, believed to be under a week old, be left to themselves in the wild.

A call placed to the environmental police media relations office before 9 a.m. on May 26 had not been returned as of 2 p.m. May 26, and an individual staffing a Massachusetts Department of Wildlife Division of Fisheries and Wildlife office in Pittsfield on May 26 said that that office was not involved with the shooting and had not been involved with the fawn situation.

May 23 Shooting

Law enforcement authorities were alerted to the shooting on May 23, after a White Oaks Road area resident reported hearing several shots fired in an area close to the family residence. Authorities investigated the report and discovered the body of the doe. The fawns were found in the vicinity of the dead animal.

The state-governed deer hunting with firearms season runs from mid-November to mid-December for shotguns and covers a specific time period in December for muzzle loaders. Doe may not be hunted without a state-issued permit. Those who hunt out of season are considered "poachers" and face criminal prosecution if apprehended.

Pownal, Vt. resident Owen Grant, known as a hunter and a woodsman, was contacted by authorities and asked if he was interested in salvaging the deer hide and meat, Grant said during a May 25 interview.

Grant said that he agreed to properly handle the remains, and was given the deer carcass. Grant is acquainted with the person who heard the shots and said that he believes the doe body was left behind because the shooter feared discovery.

Grant said that he was present during the May 23 late afternoon when state environmental police Sgt. Cameron "Terry" Davis loaded the fawns into a vehicle and drove off. Grant said that he believed that Davis intended to attempt to place the fawns somewhere for care and feeding. Grant said he learned on May 24 that Davis had been ordered by superior officers to return the fawns to the area where they'd been found and had complied with the order.

The three fawns were alive and observed by others who live in the area during Wednesday, but, according to Grant, one of the fawns had strayed from the other two. A neighborhood resident intervened and put the separated fawn back in the company of the two others.

Area Residents Seek Help For Fawns

When neighbors checked on the fawns early Thursday [May 25] morning, one was found dead, Grant said.

Those familiar with the situation were upset that the fawns had been returned to woods without any means of protecting themselves or of acquiring nourishment, Grant said.

Those involved are familiar with the harsh realities of wildlife, but were concerned that, since no human effort to save the fawns was to be initiated and no doe had appeared to care for the trio since the shooting, the fawns were left to suffer from hunger and exposure, he said. He added that the suffering was considered unnecessary by those familiar with the situation.

"The question was why didn't [state wildlife officials] put [the fawns] down if they weren't going to try and save them," Grant said.

After the death of one fawn, a decision was made to try and save the surviving pair, one male fawn and one female fawn, from the same fate. A call was placed to a local family with expertise in animal matters, Grant said.

Members of the family did intervene. An adult member of the family agreed to speak with iberkshires on the condition of anonymity.

A Rescue Attempt Initiated

After conducting research that involved additional telephone calls, the rescuers acquired a liquid formula that was appropriate as fawn nourishment, the family member said. The fawns were removed from the wild and a short time later were brought to the Greylock Animal Hospital, according to the family member.

Despite what the rescuer termed very valiant and dedicated efforts on the part of veterinary hospital staff, the male fawn died soon after arrival at the animal hospital. The female deer lived for a longer time but ultimately died while at the veterinary hospital, the rescuer said.

Both deer exhibited the effects of exposure and food deprivation, and were in poor condition when they were taken to the animal hospital, the individual said.

"We thought the little girl [fawn] had a chance and I was hoping to have good news," said the person involved with the attempted rescue. "This is just heartbreaking."

The person also noted that there are numerous individuals with questions about why the fawns were not euthanized rather then returned to the wild.

Neighborhood residents and others familiar with the situation made every effort to follow state wildlife laws, which prohibit private citizens from moving wildlife from one location to another and also prohibit licensed wildlife rehabilitators from rescuing or assisting fawns, said the individual involved with the rescue attempt.

But when the fawns plight became apparent, people became upset at the obvious suffering. When the situation was explained to the people contacted for assistance, those who attempted the rescue felt that they could not turn their backs on the helpless animals under the specific circumstances, the person said.

Published reports have stated that there is no way to be certain that the deceased doe had given birth to the fawns. While speaking to iberkshires, Grant said that while he was handling the doe body, he determined that she had been producing milk, which indicated that she was a mother. He said that it is possible for a doe to give birth to triplets, especially if she has given birth previously. Twin births among deer are more common, he said.

"A doe giving birth to three [offspring] is not really the norm, but it's not something for the record books, either," Grant said. He estimated the age of the fawn to be between two and seven days old.

Grant and the person involved with the attempted rescue said that they have no ill will toward Davis, and both said they believe Davis was following the orders he was given. Both are acquainted with Davis and said that he is an outstanding environmental police officer with a very good reputation who has earned the respect of area residents.

"I can't say this enough, Terry Davis is great," said Grant. "I don't believe that this was his call to make."

Grant and the person involved with the rescue effort said that the entire situation was caused by the shooter.

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing. A reward is being offered for information that leads to prosecution of the shooter. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact environmental police at 1-800-632-8075 or Williamstown police at 413-458-5733.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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