Winter musings: Visits from a doe provide close view of nature's fragility

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The snow and the cold have been relentless this winter. Looking out my back window on one of those chilling February days, I was startled to see a young doe standing in the deep snow.

She seemed puzzled, as if to say, "How do I get out of here?"

The yard is bordered by an old chain link fence, and the gate always stands open, but she wandered around as though she didn't know how she got there. She moved slowly, raising my concern that she might be sick or hungry.

Occasionally, a small herd of deer can be spotted at night in my Beaver County neighborhood. They search for something to eat in the safety of twilight or in total darkness later. The doe might have gotten separated from them. Here she was, alone, in the daylight. After discovering the exit from the yard, she hung around the front of the house, not seeming to mind making herself visible. Humans still frightened her, though, and she would hide behind a tree or the side of the house when one appeared.

She took to roaming from my front yard to the residence across the street and back again. I put some apples and cracked corn out where she could find them. She ate a little of that and also munched on my bushes in front of the house. A heated bird bath -- not hot, but not frozen -- provided her with drinking water.

For several weeks she wandered in and around a small area of the neighborhood. She apparently enjoyed taking advantage of the shelter provided by my neighbor's huge pine trees across the street. As I became more engrossed in her welfare, I cleared some snow and placed straw in a protected corner of the front yard, near the apples, hoping she would find it.

I eventually began to wonder what was going to happen to her. It became of particular concern when she didn't join the three deer that came into the front yard one evening.

Maybe she knew she couldn't keep up with them. No matter -- she had found food and shelter. Besides, winter looked like it would last forever. While she was here, there were several days of sizable snowfalls, strong winds and temperatures near zero.

The apples and corn began to disappear less quickly during the cold weather. I put out some apples one morning so that when she came by they would be edible and not frozen. It was 6 a.m., still dark outside, when I took the apples to the corner where she was accustomed to finding them.

As I placed them in the pan there, a movement caught my eye. I suddenly realized that she was right there on the straw. I quietly went back into the house, not wanting to disturb her. I then watched from inside the house and saw some movement by her in the semi-darkness.

Daylight, however, brought the realization that something was wrong. Her back was to me, some 30 yards from the window, but her head had fallen awkwardly against a tree. When I went outside and approached her, it became obvious that she had died.

A sadness came over me. In hindsight I guess I knew she would come to this end. The softie in me lamented her brief and tortured life. I questioned whether I should have fed her, and if I should simply have allowed nature to take its course.

I was reminded of the bald eagles being filmed and shown on the Internet using a live camera feed so that interested parties can observe them. The advice from the experts is that we should not interfere with nature.

I wonder, though, haven't we already done that? Acres and acres of land are cleared for yet another Walmart or large Target with a super-sized parking lot. In doing so, we squeeze the deer out of their woodland from all angles. They and other creatures suffer silently while searching for their ideal environment.

In time, man will conquer all, and the quiet beauty of the forests will be a distant memory.

Margie Swanson of Beaver, a former newspaper editorial and advertising employee, can be reached at

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