An August reminder of what Wild Things Sanctuary wildlife heroes have achieved, lives they've saved, and dreams they dream!
Wild Things Fawns:
Strange Cases, but lots of Playtime!

Victor, about to faint
Victor the buck, about to faint
click on the image to see a video

     2011 has seen some very unusual and unsolved mysterious cases arrive at Wild Things Sanctuary. Some of them are sad (unexplained, sudden deaths), some not-so bad and correctable (unexplained hair loss), others are mysterious (just how DID this animal get injured or separated from its family??), and others bizarre. The case of the Fainting Fawn tops the list in the latter category.

      "Victor," as his finders called him, arrived at Wild Things in mid-July. He had been wandering around their neighborhood for a few days all alone and crying. All of the other Wild Things fawns were already outside and running around the woods, so Victor had to stay inside. But that wasn't the only reason that he had to stay inside. When his finders brought him to Wild Things I was relieved to see a fawn who was in fairly good shape. I received several fawns this year who were severely injured after been hit by cars and others who were so starved that there was nothing that I could do to bring them back. It is exhausting and sad work looking after a beautiful little fawn and feeling so helpless, just making them comfortable until they either get better or they don't. So when Victor arrived, with a lovely healthy coat and well rounded body, I thought that this was going to be a nice "easy" case.

      Upon intake the only thing that appeared a bit strange was his lack of fear towards me. He did appear to be a "late-born" baby (about 6 weeks), but even so, around this age wild fawns usually start knowing that they are wild and do NOT want anything to do with humans. In fact, it is not unusual for fawns of this age and older to be taken into rehabilitation and die from the stress of it all. So within the first minute of meeting him, Victor's friendliness concerned me....but even more concerning was that 5 minutes after his finders left...he collapsed! BAM! DOWN into a dead faint!....and then up again within about 10 seconds as if nothing at all had happened!

Victor in a faint
Victor in a faint
click on the image to see a video

      As I examined him more strange little observations came to light. His little face and ears were all scared up, his ears were really dirty, and small parts of his coat looked "moth-eaten." I think that a lot of the small bare patches and scars on his ears may have been due to insect bites. There were stripes of shallow scars/worn spots across his nose, making it look wrinkled, which made me think that his little nose had been rubbing against a wire fence. Other unusual observations were that Victor didn't have to get used to a bottle, but took it regularly from the start, and yet he didn't want anything to do with browse (leaves, twigs, and young shoots of trees or shrubs), which fawns of his age are usually eating regularly. And his poop (excuse me!) appeared and smelled strange, like mothball lentils!

      Did you know that wildlife rehabilitators are part detective? And in Victor's case, taken together, these observations were pointing towards part of his history that may (or may not) explain his fainting. So, to review the case: scarring on his ears (mama deer would lick away flies), his lack of fear of humans (mama would teach him to be scared), his lack of interest in a natural diet of leaves (mama would make sure he ate them!), his good body condition (must have only been recently separated from mama...but then why scars? Why lack of fear? Why dislike of browse??), he loves and seems to know a bottle, his unusual poop, the marks around his nose like there was a fence involved.... What do you think?

      To me, these observations made me start thinking that he was probably brought up by a human. Perhaps raised by someone and then released when he started fainting.

 Fainting can occur for several reasons:

    *   head trauma, but no sign of that.

   *   parasites (e.g., worms that get in the brain and other awful things like that!), possible, but you would see more cognitive impairment and he wouldn't be so perfect the rest of the time

   *   nutritional, possible, but again, would probably see more cognitive impairment or more continuous and additional symptom

   *   developmental, this is the most likely as of right now. But, could it be a genetic, epigenetic or environmental developmental issue? Genetic and Victor might or might never improve, epigenetic (a given environment "bringing out" certain genetic predispositions) and there is a chance that given a proper deer environment he might get better, environmental (such as lack of nutrients) and he might well get better, as long as it's not too late (certain nutrients are vital at certain times during development to ensure proper growth of all body systems).

      There is a nerve called the "Vagus nerve"- one of the 12 main cranial nerves that are the "gateway to the brain" nerves- they are the only nerves that go in & out of the brain with information. The Vagus is #10 and is an interesting one because it has both sensory input into the brain ("something feels weird") and motor output from the brain ("it IS weird so move!"). The Vagus controls, among other things, much of our heart, lungs and diaphragm (did I mention that I left graduate school to open Wild Things and my PhD was in cognitive and neuroanatomical comparative evolution?!). When there is a problem with this nerve, any of these functions can suffer- be it momentarily (fainting) or long term (problems drawing breath). Humans actually have conditions involving the Vagus nerve. "Vasovagal Syndrome" is a condition where certain stimuli trigger a malfunction in the vagus nerve's ability to regulate heart rate and blood pressure: when heart rates slows, blood pressure drops and the resulting lack of blood to the brain causes fainting.

      So, this is all very interesting, but what does it mean to Victor? And is this even a correct diagnosis?? I don't know! Only time will tell. I've treated him with certain vitamins important for proper nerve function (thiamine, B's, potassium), and it may have made a difference, hard to tell. My volunteers and I have been vigilant at writing down when he faints. There is a type of "fainting," also called narcolepsy or "cataplexy," that has been observed in dogs and typically happens at the initiation of eating, when the first muscels to go are those needed for sucking or eating. Yes, Victor appears to faint at feeding times....but this is also the only time that we spend with him. And during these 30 minute or so time periods, he might faint before feeding, 20 minmuntes afterwards, rarely during (as seen in the video),
and sometimes before taking the bottle. There may be some correlation between his faints and new stimuli like thunder or new people, suggesting that excitement might bring on a faint. His fainting is so variable that it is tough to come to a definite conclusion.

Victor's wonderful new enclosure
Victor's wonderful brand new outdoor enclosure in the Wild Woods

     There are many people trying to help Victor. A local animal communicator has even been working with him (...and interestingly, he seems better since she started!). A local Wild Things superstar donated his time and bought materials to build Victor a large outdoor enclosure in just a few days. Victor certainly seems like he is doing better since being outdoors. One thing that interested me is that the first few days he was outside, he couldn't stop eating dirt, suggesting a nutritional need that he was lacking. He also was very happy to see the other fawns already living at large in the Wild Woods (see video below). He is defintely fainting less than when he first arrived (0-2 observed times per day, down from 3-5).

      It soon became clear to me that fainting aside, even more dangerous to Victor's future well being was the fact that he was so accustomed to humans. Lack of fear towards humans can be a death sentence for a young buck. If a deer is not scared of humans it is more likely to be shot by a hunter or as a nuisance animal. This is especially true of bucks, as they become large, can become territorial/aggressive, and possess dangerous weapons in the form of antlers.

      Wild Things is not able to keep unreleasable deer. There are no facilities. And as much as possible I try to get the wild things back into the wild. This is their destiny and I try to honor that no matter what, even if it ultimately means a shorter life.

      I have heard that animals (and people) may "outgrow" fainting problems, but there is no way to tell if Victor will outgrow his fainting or not. The problem is that if I keep him for a long period of time to see whether he will outgrow his condition, he will be too socialized to be successfully released.

      So, I've started letting him roam around during the day with the other fawns. Not only is this important for his own well being and behavioral learning, but he will also get the proper nutrition that the wild can provide. The other fawns will guide him and hopefully he will soon start eating browse on his own. I check him over at every bottle to make sure that he hasn't fainted and injured himself on some hard surface. So far, so good.

      So, the story of Victor presents the Wild Things e-Newsletter readers with an idea of the complexity of wildlife rehabilitation. It is not just cutsie animal snuggling. Wildlife rehabilitators are part behavioral scientists, part vets, part moms, part biologists/psychologists, part janitors, and definitely part detectives. We don't always have the advanced tools of vets, scientists or all of our senses have to be primed at all times ready to notice any observation that could be a clue to get our patients well. Granted, Victor is a special case, but even so, with 150+ patients/year, none of whom can talk and tell you what happened to them, wildlife rehabilitation can be tough and emotionally and intellectually time consuming and difficult!

      Yes, I left graduate school to start Wild Things Sanctuary, but case work at Wild Things keeps my mind challenged more than ever!

Young fawns playing at Wild Things
click on picture to see video

A repaired nest back in a tree

Wildlife tip: baby birds & bird nests

A bird's nest with eggs/babies fell out of a tree: Help!
Baby birds/eggs are on the ground: Help!

This situation has been encountered by many people! Birds nest or babies fall out of trees for many reasons: high winds, storms, intruders, bad construction, etc... It is awful seeing the little ones or eggs on the ground and helpless. But you can do something about it!

One of the biggest myths around, that has probably cost millions of wild animals their lives, is that the mother won't take the babies back if handled by humans.
This is rubbish!
A mother will do anything to get her little ones back!

Pick up the babies or eggs and place them back in the nest. If the nest has fallen try to secure it to the highest and closest point possible in the tree.

Or, build a makeshift nest and attach it to a tree.

Get a cool-whip type low circular plastic tub.
Put some holes in the bottom (important in case it rains).
Make a nice little cozy nest inside with grasses or soft clothes, etc... or place the old nest into the tub.
Attach the tub to the highest and closest possible place where the original nest was located.

The parents should still continue to feed their babies, though human activity may keep them away.
Give the parents some time and space but keep an eye out to make sure that they return.

If so: great!
If not: call a rehabilitator!

Baby birds in makeshift nest

Take a look at a great story about a young Great Horned Owlet reunited with it's parents using a makeshift nest by clicking here.
Lots of ways to help Wild Things!
Want to help the wild things, but not sure if you want to handle them??

  That's OK!

There are lots of ways to help Wild Things Sanctuary.

Above is a picture of the amazing outdoor enclosure that a volunteer built for Victor the fainting fawn.

It will not only be used for Victor, but will enable Wild Things to help keep the other fawns safe by keeping them in at night. It is also a great pre-release cage for animals like bunnies or songbirds who are compatible with fawns. This enclosure will enable Wild Things to look after more birds and means that bunnies and other "prey" species can be given a chance to experience the outdoors in safety before their eventual release.

A few more of these amazing enclosures and Wild Things could move most of it's animal care outside, which would be great and healthier for the animals.

Other volunteers have offered their gardening expertise or habitat building skills.
The latter is not as complicated as it sounds- building brush piles are a great way to provide habitat and relatively easy to make.
Others have helped clear trails to outdoor enclosures.

So, if you want to help Wild Things Sanctuary, send us an email and let us know!

By the order of the Department of Environmental Conservation in NY, all volunteers who work with animals must be over 16.
Help save a fawn by making a donation to Wild Things today!

Wild Things Sanctuary needs your help!

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today to help Victor and the other fawns at Wild Things!


Mission Statement

Wild Things Sanctuary (WTS) is dedicated to helping native wildlife through rescuing and rehabilitating debilitated and orphaned/displaced animals until they are ready for release back into the wild.

Eventually, WTS is also aiming to provide a sanctuary for non-releasable native animals.

WTS is also committed to improving the well-being of wildlife through public education; focusing on how humans can safely and peacefully coexist with native wildlife, and on wildlife’s importance to man and the environment.
Copyright © 2011 Wild Things Sanctuary, All rights reserved.
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