But as bad as it's been for us, it's been just that much worse for all those animals - particularly the deer population - living in the wild. For well more than two months they've not been able to forage, what with the two feet of snow that has blanketed the area. At that depth they generally don't even try to roam. They hunker down and await better weather. That never comes.
Click on the image above, if you have it in you, in order to enlarge it.
This little gal would have been one year old in a few months.
But she'll never see her birthday. She'll never even feel the warmth of a spring day.
This horrible, horrible winter killed her.
I first came upon her one day a little over a week ago, a time when she was still fighting for survival. I was going down the driveway on my ATV, heading to my tractor shed to see if I could (without success) get my tractor out and plow. I confronted her about halfway down, standing at the edge of the gravel eating what small amount of grass had been exposed by the previous day's rare bit of sunshine. The temperature had risen into the upper 30's for the first time in weeks and a bit of thaw had occurred.
When I saw her standing there, I slowed, then came to a stop, maybe twenty feet from her. She didn't take off running, as deer do. She stood upright and stared at me. With dull, lifeless, distant, struggling eyes she fixed her gaze on me and didn't move.
I noticed that she was thin. Not emaciated but underweight. The winter was taking its toll.
I took note of her plight and moved on. I had my struggles with snow that I was dealing with as well.
Besides, these winter blasts always give way to warm spells with the accompanying welcome thaw.
Green grass was within days of appearing everywhere on every hillside.
And she'd be fine again.
It always works that way.
And then all hell broke loose again the next day.
Not so much in terms of snowfall; we got maybe six additional inches of snow, all told. So there wasn't a lot of that. But ferocious winds came. And winter, in all its fury, blasted our mountain once again. For days. Relentless pounding. Unrelenting bitter cold and drifting snow ... again.
It's interesting, around here when the wind blows in out of the west, it comes up from the valley and actually sends snow flying upward. It doesn't come down; it goes up. And it is forbidding. Menacing. Threatening. Bone-chilling.
Especially for God's little creatures that have no shelter.
I came home from work late Thursday night and was making a run up my driveway, with its drifting snow proving to be almost too much for my SUV to deal with. As I approached the steepest part of the drive, I noticed the same small deer laying under a cedar tree next to the driveway. I passed within ten feet of her, and she barely moved. Covered with snow, curled up to protect herself from the bitter wind, she was doing her best to survive the night and its horrific conditions. She just lay there, exposed to the furious onslaught.
I went in the house. And resolved to help her when the storm abated.
If only I'd been more resolute.
I went out on Sunday morning to find the fawn. I really didn't have a plan. If I could locate her, I thought, I could see what needed to be done to get some food to her. Cracked corn. Hay, though deer don't seem to want to touch it. Sustenance. To get her through the last few weeks - hopefully - of this godawful winter.
I didn't have far to go. She lay about 30 yards from that cedar tree, in a recessed area beneath our horse paddock. She had picked the spot because it provided a bit of shelter from the wind, and perhaps because the compost that she lay in was providing some warmth. She had turned her head away from the fury in an effort to shield her face from the chill. That's how I found her.
It's telling that the scavengers hadn't gotten to her yet. Even they are unable to move around under these conditions. It's that bad.
She didn't die of starvation. But she did die from a lack of food. In weather like we're dealing with, these creatures need nutrition to keep their body temperature elevated. She, being undernourished, couldn't deal with the bitter cold. She died of exposure. Essentially she froze to death. At the age of seven or eight months. All alone.
Paula had seen her once several days ago at our feeding station. Why she didn't stay there, we'll never know. Other deer now come several times a day.
Interestingly, because they have nowhere else to go and nothing else to eat, they linger, even when we arrive to feed them. They move off about fifteen yards and stand and stare. Then they hurriedly come down to eat once we've moved off. They're not tame. They're desperate.
They will, with a bit of help, survive. Nature has a way of seeing to that.
Others, thousands of others, like that little fawn, won't. Winter, this awful, awful winter has killed so many of them. And it ain't over.
Somehow, it seems to me, she didn't deserve this.
I'm hoping God has a special heaven for these His most precious creatures. May she and all those that die this winter find warmth and comfort there. Warmth. Comfort. Sustenance. The kinds of things that we take for granted, things that she wasn't able to find here on this earth.
More snow is expected Wednesday. Have mercy.