Opinion

The nature of Sequim

I was a city dweller most of my life. I grew up in Seattle outside the city limits in the early days in a neighborhood with small new houses with yards, flower gardens and picket fences. The wildest life we saw were robins and garter snakes.

The first time I encountered deer roaming the streets was in rural eastern Washington. I was enormously impressed and persuaded my husband to have lunch at a nearby restaurant so we could watch them.

Looking back now I can just imagine the eye rolling of locals listening to my amazed gushing over what was for them an everyday sight.

My husband and I have lived in Sequim for 16 years. We came to the Olympic Peninsula when I accepted a position at Olympic Medical Center but we also were drawn by the beauty of mountains, waters and forests.

We found an unfinished house we liked which was new and perched on a pile of dirt, sand and gravel surrounded by vacant dirt lots. Husband got busy finishing the house and landscaping and today we have our own park accented by an assortment of rocks, some too large to move by hand, and some screened from piles of dirt by my diligent husband.

The vacant lot to our east grew into a haven of trees, brush and wild roses for young bird families. That is, once the raccoons quit coming through the lot on their way to neighbors who fed them restaurant scraps, not the doggy bag type but the dumpster type that restaurants throw away each day. When they moved, the raccoons moved on, too.

We installed two communal bird feeders, a finch feeder and a hummingbird feeder that has seven tubes that are my responsibility to keep full.

For reasons unknown to us, this year has broken all records for types and numbers of birds. We have at different times seen doves, quails, hummingbirds, Rufus-sided towhees, Stellar jays, cedar waxwings and downy woodpeckers among all the usual neighborhood birds, all living together in some kind of ecosystem that has birds spewing food from the feeders for other birds eating below.

Occasional squabbles break out and birds do targeted speed flying with enough precision to get close enough to drive the other bird away without touching. I have tried telling them that this is a peace zone but they listen about as much as our two cats who face each other down when some cat line has been crossed.

Like aliens, a pair of ducks landed one spring day and explored the area around the bird feeders. To our surprise they returned on a regular basis finding morsels not consumed by the other birds. Now it’s only the female that returns which makes us sad.

I was really surprised another spring day to see a gorgeous feathered pheasant strolling through the yard. Two months later, we were delighted to see a mother pheasant and her four babies that we are watching grow. I never saw Dad again.

Oh, deer!

I am no longer surprised by deer passing through our land but in the early hours of a Sunday morning in May, I was surprised to see a new fawn walking out of our driveway. I saw it was newborn enough to be expelling meconium. I didn’t see the mom but watched the fawn from inside the house and saw it go into this same wooded lot that has spawned so much new life. I could hear it mew and thought it was likely lagging behind Mom who already was in the woods.

Fast forward nearly nine hours later when we arrived home and heard loud anxious bleating coming from the woods. “Fawn!” Sure enough, fawn was in the thicket bleating and no Mom in sight.

I went to the phone to find out what to do – called neighbor who said call the State Patrol who contacted the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Just about then husband announces, “I have him in our garage. Fawn came out of the thicket and let me pick her up.”

Oh deer! I’m off to the Internet to find out what to do. I read that fawns are left for long periods of time by their mothers; mom deer will come when baby cries; don’t feed them cow’s milk or they will die a painful death.

“Stop the milk!” I called to my husband. We had already put out a bowl of milk which the fawn had the good sense to ignore. Fawn was unafraid and seemed at peace although occasionally poked his nose between my husband’s legs no doubt planning to eat.

At last I thought to call our veterinarian who advised I call the Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center. I called and was relieved to hear the voice of Jaye Moore who asked pointed questions about the fawn’s day as we knew it. She said the prolonged bleating and coming out of a thicket to my husband were indications the fawn was abandoned but she couldn’t be certain.

Husband held fawn while I drove to the center and we left fawn to be fed and sent to a field where other fawns picked up by humans lived. Later in the evening the Fish and Wildlife person called and dispassionately lectured me that we should have left the fawn alone.

We will never know. We thought we heard cries for help. We felt drained and disheartened; it had been a wearing evening.

Now many weeks later, our sanctuary of life goes through cycles of gains and losses. Husband counts quail babies and some are missing.

I hope the lot owners will call us before they clear their lot. It will be our wildlife’s Katrina and we will be very sad.

Many of us have moved here and onto the remaining rocky devastation of former wildlife habitats. It’s the nature of Sequim.

 

Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

 

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