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Bringing up 'Squeakers'

When they found her, the young fawn wasn't moving an inch. Nestled in the thick grass under a hot summer sky, she soon was surrounded by curious - and eventually quite concerned - human neighbors.

Seemingly abandoned by its mother, the fawn, since named "Squeakers" by the Sequim family that took it in for seven days, is now at the Northwest Raptor Center, rehabilitating and preparing to be released back into the wild.

Marie Barnett, a local property manager, said it was in late May when someone living on property she leases found the fawn while mowing the back acre of grass, nearly running into it with a riding mower.

"It was 'How cute,' thinking the mom would come back," Barnett recalls.

A day went by and the fawn's mother didn't return, but the sweltering conditions remained. The young deer was lethargic with little or no movement.

Fearing for the fawn's life, Barnett decided to take the fawn back to her Agnew home.

No stranger to animals, Barnett and her family have a veritable zoo - a Catahoula leopard dog, a 100-pound black lab, a 200-pound great Dane, six khaki Campbell ducks, two cats, five fish and a rat - and she's taken care of goats, cows, lambs and other creatures in recent years.

But, naturally, each of these are/were domesticated. Taking in a fawn is, well, not kosher.

Most wild babies that end up being brought to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife offices or to wildlife rehabilitators are not helpless or abandoned, state officials say.

"Every spring, hundreds of baby birds, deer fawns, seal pups and other young wild animals are referred to our wildlife rehabilitators," said state wildlife biologist Patricia Thompson, who coordinates about 70 state volunteer rehabilitators.

"This can be extremely harmful to the young animal and costly to rehabilitators when they most need to concentrate limited resources on truly orphaned or injured wildlife."

Thompson explains that young wild animals often are left alone for hours while their parents gather food. Young birds commonly leave the nest before they are fully feathered and are fed on the ground by their parents for a day or two until they are able to fly.

Doe deer leave their fawns alone to avoid drawing predators with their own body scent.

"These wild babies are being tended by their parents in ways that are best for their survival and for retaining their natural wild behaviors," Thompson said.

"If they lose their wild

behavior under human care, they usually can't be truly rehabilitated for release back into the wild and often must be euthanized."

Barnett said she felt she waited the appropriate time. As she notes, the state's own Web site mentions this:

"Wild animals of any age that show obvious signs of illness or injury such as bleeding, vomiting, panting, shivering, or ruffled feathers or fur, or that are just lethargic and make no effort to escape your approach, may indeed be in need of care."

The first night, the fawn stayed in Barnett's shower so she could keep her feedings regular, but by the next night Barnett moved Squeakers out into a barn.

"As cute as she is," Barnett added, "she is in fact a wild animal and not a pet."

Barnett said she continued to make calls, not finding the correct contact until someone gave her the Northwest Raptor Center's number.

"I didn't get any calls back until the next day.

Most people were very kind and helpful, even if they were not able to help. I got some that preached the laws on handling wild animals. They are correct. It is against Washington law to intervene with a wild animal and you do risk a ticket."

Meanwhile, the Barnett family began to grow attached to the fawn, whom Barnett's 6-year-old son Kile christened "Squeakers."

"Because," Barnett explained, "that's the sound she makes."

Barnett also got plenty of help from her 18-year-old daughter Brittny, who works part time at a veterinary clinic and volunteers for the Clallam County Humane Society.

"This little deer brought so many giggles in such a short period of time," Barnett said. "I cannot even begin to explain the joy in my son's eyes and the pride in my daughter's shoulders as we watched this deer get stronger each day."

After seven days, the Barnetts brought "Squeakers" to the Northwest Raptor Center, where Jaye Moore took over. As a licensed caretaker, Moore rehabilitates wild animals of various species.

"She (Squeakers) is here and doing well," Moore said last week. "We've had to give her a lot of fluids because she was dehydrated."

"Squeakers" joins two other rehabilitating fawns.

Moore said she anticipates releasing all three in the early fall, September or October, onto private property near state Department of Natural Resources land.

"I can't thank (Jaye Moore) enough for the feeling I had when I handed her that baby," Barnett said. "I knew she was going to be OK."

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.



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