Shape Shifters

This morning I looked up from my computer and gazed out the window above my desk into the faces of deer coming down the path. This is not a common occurrence, only a few times have I seen a deer in our yard, and that was a very young solitary deer (I write about her in Critter Tales).  If I do see deer close to the house, which is rare, they are in the woods, just inside the protection of brush cover.

Slowly slipping out of my chair, I backed away from the window and moved to a smaller window out of their view. Even that slight movement caused ears to turn and caution flags to go up for all but one of the three deer.  She came further into the yard.  Most people do not relish deer in their yards, but I am a deer lover. I find their presence enchanting.

The deer who live in the woods around us are not the tame deer found in public parks like Hurricane Ridge, or in Port Townsend, where deer are so accustom to people you have to drive or walk around them.  These deer live a wild life, their survival depends not on human cultivated lawns and tender plants, but on being cautious and alert.  We once found the remains of a fresh cougar kill, including a hind leg ‘hidden’ under a fern for a later meal.

These deer are shape-shifters.  They move with careful deliberation and nimblness. They literally move between the small branches of Salmonberry and Thimbleberry, blending in and disguised by the interwoven web of branches.  If you see one and look away, you will not find it again.  In her book, The Hidden Life of Deer, author Elizabeth Marshall Thomas explains how deer know exactly how far to walk into the woods to blend in, they know the moment they disappear.

I had to be very quiet this morning. I tried to slowly open a window to take a picture, but the tiniest sound got attention, so I took pictures through the window. It is amazing to watch their bodies, their movements, even while being alert they are calm, moving with agility.  In the cold morning air and early sun I was spellbound watching them move with such grace.

The curious one in the yard ate some blackberry leaves then joined her companions in the brush between our yard and our little studio building further in the woods. I had to look hard to keep my eye on them, eventually I looked away, eventually they moved away, lost to my view as they merged into the woods.

later the does returned, though I had not seen them when I went for a walk in the woods. After watching one eat a few Rhody buds (so do squirrels!) I quietly walked out onto the porch. They looked up, paused a moment and quickly retreated.