When A Wild Animal Adopts A Human

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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I have previously written about us being adopted by a buck deer. How when he and his brother were still fawns while I was gathering limbs and clearing our lot his mother found me interesting and followed me around for most of the day. Always maintaining a distance of around 15 to 20 feet, but where I went she went and her two fawns were right there too. About how a few years later the two fawns returned as full grown bucks. How the one we called Junior came back year after year until one time he did not come back and we felt certain he had died of old age or other means. I could write about several interactions between myself and Junior but I will try not to be redundant and repeat any prior stories.

Wild Animals Showing Trust

Before every conservation officer, game warden or hunter who reads this becomes upset it is not about making a pet of a wild animal but instead about a human which a wild animal chose to befriend. From the very first time Junior returned he walked right up to me like he had known me his whole life and displayed total trust. It was a little daunting at first but slowly I gained trust in him as well. He would let me rub his nose and pick ice balls or ticks off him and if my clothes became caught on his antlers he would stand still while I un-hooked us. I’m sure those antlers can be deadly in certain cases but Junior never once showed the least bit of hostility toward me. He would actually make little mewing sounds when he was getting affection.

Non-Verbal Animal Communication

I have heard stories how buck deer are dangerous during the rut but Junior was never the least bit threatening to me. In fact, he would venture off to chase the ladies and be gone for several days and then would come back totally exhausted and lay down just outside the gate to our back yard to rest up. With us around, I’m sure he felt very safe there. Non verbal communication is just as accurate as verbal and maybe more so when it comes to seperate species communicating. Junior would stand outside the gate until he caught my attention and his non-verbal communication would be clear. He was going to lay down and rest for a few hours and wanted us to watch out for him while he recovered his energy. He would go so soundly asleep that we could come and go and walk around him while he was asleep and he wouldn’t move and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. He would sometimes open an eye to see who it was and go right back to sleep again. When he was finally rested sufficiently he would browse on the lush growth over the septic tank drain field and then off he would go and the cycle would repeat itself several times each year.

Deer Behavior

One year he was proving his manhood with his brother and broke off one of his antlers. The forlorn look on his face was obvious.. I don’t know if deer understand human talk or not but I would sit out with Junior for the next few days telling him he was still a powerful deer and his manhood was intact that he had just lost an antler. After a few days he began to perk up again and returned to his normal self and was once again in pursuit of a doe. Junior’s mother also stayed around for years too and demonstrated trust in us. His mother was a remarkable deer too as one time she showed up with rake marks on her body where she had survived a mountain lion attack. Another time coyotes attacked her fawn and we watched as she chased the coyote down and pounced squarely in the middle of its back. We watched her adopt a small fawn that had broken its leg somehow and she raised it as her own until it too was grown and on its own. The original mother had abandoned it and chased it off when it tried to keep up with her. We could always recognize Junior’s mother because of that scar on her side from the lion attack.

Strange Phenomena

In Junior’s case he would come back to hang out often with a group of other male deer. He would bring them around and initially they seemed confused and leery when he would walk right up to me like the old friend he actually was. Gradually they also seemed to accept our relationship of mutual trust. Next thing I knew I would be out in the yard with Junior along with his pals all standing around while I talked to them about various subjects, mostly how to watch out for hunters and poachers. They would watch intently and sometimes turn their head as if they really understood what I was saying. Once one of Junior’s pals showed up without Junior and I asked him where was Junior and why didn’t he go and get Junior because it was getting close to hunting season. He turned and walked away and three days later I looked out the window and here he came with Junior trailing behind him. Coincidence? Possibly but it sure was a strong coincidence. I can’t explain it but I know it happened and it was pretty amazing to witness. We hear of other people feeding deer and partially domesticating them but in our case it was the deer which for no reason we can fathom adopted and trusted us.

RIP Junior – You Taught us Much

Living in the mountains with wild animals is certainly a unique and educational experience. Many of the things we have heard about wild animals has systematically proven untrue. One thing we have noticed is that wild animals respect us humans far more than we respect them. It is humbling and amazing when wild animals display a trust in us humans to the extent Junior did to us. Our experience with Junior and his mother is one which we will never forget and we miss his presence to this day because he was a very special deer and we are grateful that he trusted us enough to allow us into his world.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and mountain living go to: www.BruceCarolCabin.Blogspot.com.

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