Fawning over wildlife rescue
Orphaned spotted fawns have overrun Kathie Stebbins and Greg Gonzales’ fenced vegetable patch.
Stebbins and Gonzales are a husband-and-wife team volunteering for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release. Since May, the couple has cared for 23 orphaned fawns on their remote, 40-acre Grass Valley land.
The tiny creatures, rescued when just weeks old, were found after their mothers died in road kills and other accidents. Others were found being cared for illegally in people’s homes with improper food and, in some cases, sleeping on the couch in front of the television.
“Every story starts so sad,” said Stebbins.
The work is a mixed blessing. While 14 rescued fawns are currently thriving, nine have died from injuries they received in the wild by coyote and dog maulings.
“We haven’t had so much joy or so much heartache in a long time,” Stebbins said.
Volunteers are needed to help transport the animals to the remote property where Stebbins and Gonzales live. Donations are always needed to pay for formula and fencing costs.
The bottle-fed deer collectively eat a 5-gallon bucket of “black-tailed deer formula” a week. Last year, it cost the rescue organization $1,600 to care for 20 fawns.
Just like any parent with a young baby, the couple has had to help with feedings round the clock.
“All our babies have four legs,” Gonzales said. While Gonzales has a grown daughter from another marriage, he and Stebbins never had children together.
Soon the fawns will graduate to wild foods like oak branches and their favorite culinary treat, poison oak.
For several years, the couple cared for injured birds, but this is the first year they have taken in fawns. They learned how to care for them from a 76-year- old Penn Valley woman with 30 years of experience with orphaned fawns.
They say they’ve learned that fawns are a playful cross between a puppy and a foal and that the animals are “tough, but so very delicate.”
Next week, the couple will construct a 100-foot by 100-foot pen with electric wire to keep out the mountain lions and give the young herd more room to roam. And gradually, the couple will cut off contact to “wild up” the young animals.
“We’re enjoying this touching part, but soon it will be over. Our job is to make them releasable,” Stebbins said. The volunteers will release the deer into the wild this fall with the guidance of California Fish and Game wardens.
To report injured or orphaned wild animals, to volunteer or make donations, visit the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release Web site: http://www.cawildlife911.org or call 432-5522.
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@the union.com or call 477-4231.
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