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Fawns freed from fence predicament

(Betsy Bloom/Daily News photos) A little help from neighbors helped these trapped fawns get free of a wooden fence that snagged them Friday in northern Dickinson County.

So, late Friday morning had this …

I could hear them bleating from inside the house. I shrugged it off at first, but it continued.

So I headed up the hill, toward the sound. I could see the doe standing in the road — and then, as I came around the curve, the reason for the bleating became clear: Twin fawns, trapped in the wooden fence that surrounds a neighboring yard, at a place where the owners are away.

Why both decided to squeeze through the fence — much less at the same time and in the same spot — is unclear. Maybe they’d done it before when smaller. But the fence does have an opening on one side where they could have easily exited the yard. Perhaps they saw mom coming and in their eagerness tried take the shortest route to her.

But in both of them attempting to get through so close to each other, they left no room for the wood to shift or give for either. One had managed to get all four legs over only to be stopped at the hip joints, the other only got three legs through before having the same problem.

They were close to panic, enough I worried they might injure themselves in struggling to get free. I talked as soothingly as I could as I pulled at the boards, thinking I could pry one loose. Then I went to get tools.

My mom had the best idea, though — call another Six Mile Lake neighbor, who soon came to the rescue.

Lee Tregillis and his son, Chad, managed to quickly free the pair. One fawn made the right move across the road toward where the doe had gone into the woods, while the other became confused and headed up the driveway toward the house.

Lee wisely suggested we back off and let mom come gather her fawns. There was no sign of them when I headed to work roughly an hour later.

It wasn’t until I downloaded the photos that I realized one fawn looked to have had a past injury around its left eye that was healing. Had it been attacked? If so, at that age — probably only a few weeks old, at best — it was lucky to have escaped.

But that’s two brushes with disaster for that fawn. Let’s hope life gets a little easier for it from here on out.

*****

The twins did provide a good reminder that after spending much of their first weeks in hiding, the fawns have reached an age when they will begin following their mothers. This also is a time when they will race around, building muscle and stamina to outrun predators — my sister calls it the “zoomies.” I’ve watched fawns in past years do laps around our home and the neighbors’ house across the road.

So keep a sharp eye for does, because the fawns likely won’t be far away. And be aware, especially on back roads, that fawns may come sprinting out, so probably best to drive a little more slowly until they become more savvy about vehicles. No one wants to hit a fawn.

*****

Turtles — snapping and painted — have been hauling out to lay eggs. I’ve already seen a few run over by vehicles, but heard as well of someone stopping to carry a turtle across the road.

So here’s the annual reprint of advice from Jim Harding, a now-retired former adjunct wildlife specialist at the Michigan State University Museum, for helping turtles safely get across a road:

— As always, don’t risk yourself in trying to assist the turtle. If the turtle can cross the road without help, let it.

— If it’s safe, try to take the turtle in the direction it was headed, he said, “as long as the turtle’s chosen direction isn’t taking it into worse danger. There are times when turtles don’t choose their paths wisely, in which case I may take the turtle a little farther, away from the road.”

— If it’s necessary to move the turtle, handle it gently. For all turtle species except snappers and softshells, grasp the turtle along the shell edge near the midpoint of its body.

— If it’s a snapping turtle — one of the most common types in the region — “it’s true, don’t lift by tail,” Harding said. “Grabbing the rear of the shell is tricky, and the turtle will not appreciate that you are trying to help it. Thus for big snappers, I often opt to push them off the road with a stout stick, or tease the turtle into biting an old towel or jacket and dragging it off the road as it hangs on.”

Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 240, or bbloom@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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