"Could you not have had a vet euthanize the fawn, or humanely
shoot it? How can you let this happen? You can't say it's
nature, Koani is not living as nature intended. To inflict such
fear and more pain on a suffering animal, to allow that, disgraceful!
Don't send us any more from Wild Sentry!" Quack's
Corner, Bridgeton, NJ
by that correspondence, we felt compelled to respond to the issue
od Koani's predatory nature.
does everything have to be a dilemma for me? Why can't I just
be happy with what happens? Here's my latest ethical dilemma.
On this morning's walk, Koani went into high alert while following
the trail-side creek. Her tail gave a quick wag and she plunged
into the brush. It's early-June when fawns are born by the bushel.
I reacted, as if by instinct, to halt her-but I didn't do so
in order to stop her from pouncing on a fawn. I've made my peace
with that predatory aspect of her personality-sort of.
year, despite attempts to prevent it, Koani fills her fawn tag.
This isn't an activity I encourage or even want to occur; it
just happens because Koani's predatory response is instinctive
and fawns are camouflaged; therefore, ninety-five per cent of the
time she knows where the tiny deer is far in advance of me. In the
beginning I tried to stop her and sometimes I reacted fast enough
so that between the fawn's frantic struggles and my pulling,
it escaped, only to die soon thereafter of its injuries. A newborn
is mostly cartilage and the slightest pressure punctures its eggshell
skull or fractures fragile bones. Once in the grip of a wolf's
mouth, no matter how momentarily, the fawn will not survive. So
I've learned to do what I must dolet the leash go slack
and allow Koani to continue. I turn my back so I can't see it
thrashing. I plug my ears to deaden the sounds of bawling.
Mom comes running to the scene. But what can she do against a wolf
and me? She circles frantically sounding breathy alarm calls. Occasionally,
another doe joins her, perhaps her mother, sister, or an older daughter.
But, even though the fawn continues bleating, it's dead. And
Koani hunted her prey down fair and square. Perhaps even more than
fair and square. Unlike her wild brethren, she's hindered by
a leash attached to a human who, for the most part, refuses to venture
I'm an ecologist. I know that huge surpluses of young are born
every year and that most are meant to be eaten. I know that if young
aren't eaten there will be too many adults and this in turn
is disastrous to the habitat and the herds that depend on it.
canyon we live in should foster wild wolves that eat fawns. The
canyon should, at the very least, be home to coyotes; but it has
none of the former and few of the latter. We live among people that
welcome neither. I know that too many deer live in this canyon.
I know that Koani killing one is a good thing. Besides, she's
happy. She is never more alive than when she is in the middle of
a kill. And the adrenaline rush continues for several hoursyou
can see it in her eyes. Those eyes say, "I am a wolf. I kill
for my living. I'm fully alive right now." So why does
the death of the fawn haunt me? Why do I keep hearing its screams?
Keep seeing the bright red blood flow from its frail spotted body?
well over a decade, I've played mental ping-pong with this dilemma
and, finally, decided not to intervene. So this morning, I didn't
choose to stop Koani because I thought she was after a fawn. I stopped
her because I believed that she was about to destroy a grouse or
mallard or turkey nest and because she doesn't derive much fulfillment
from trashing a nest. Besides, there're plenty of predators
in the canyon that eat nesting ground birds' eggs. Koani pulled
frantically. I resisted and wrapped the leash around a tree so she
couldn't drag me further. I searched for the nest but found
no more than a foot away from Koani's gasping mouth, I saw it.
Not a muscle moved, but the rows of spots on the reddish coat stood
out once I focused on. Tiny. Born yesterday maybe. Koani redoubled
her efforts. My hand went numb from the leash strangling it, my
cracked rib hurt from the strain of holding her back. I almost released
my grip. Let it happen.
one large liquid eye rimmed by long lashes opened. Without really
thinking I gave a mighty heave, hoisted Koani back, and the fawn
was a few feet safer. I pulled again. Koani didn't retreat willingly
but she knew it was over. Panting with exertion and choked by the
collar, she moved away step by reluctant step. The fawn lay immobile.
Why can't I be happy that a fawn lived another day; an eternity
in a fawn's life? Why instead do I keep seeing the frustration,
confusion, and then discouragement in Koani's yellow eyes?
we will walk the trail again. Tomorrow whatever happens will happen.
Or will it? And why will I feel bad no matter what happens?