One of the joys of living on a ravine lot in Toronto or Pickering or Ajax, is the endless entertainment provided by nature’s critters of all sizes. Birds, bees, ants, mice, owls, frogs, snakes, chipmunks, squirrels, river otters, herons, raccoons… and one special visitor: a deer that appeared on Boxing Day next to our backyard pond.
Although I don’t live in the forest, one of the many great things about owning a ravine lot in the city is that it often feels like a little piece of paradise every time I come home. For someone who loves to be at a cottage, this is an ideal setting while being very close to everyone and everything you could need each day.
One morning as I peered out my home office window at the ever-changing views of trees, shadows and sunlight, I spotted a deer down by our pond. There is no direct access to a forest and she would have had to really go out of her way to get down there across busy lanes of traffic. But there she was. Apparently alone.
After racing to set up the tripod, camera and telephoto lens I was able to snap a few decent photos. (That’s her in the accompanying photo).
Upon closer inspection of the photos it appeared as though she had somehow injured her back leg. She was not moving very quickly either. I decided to let her be for a bit and quietly made my way down later in the day after she disappeared out of sight.
Once I made my way down towards the pond, sure enough, she was hiding in the brush about 50 feet away. She was camouflaged perfectly in the branches but I was able to make out the dark markings on her face. She was larger than I thought and would be quite a force if she ever felt threatened and decided to defend herself. She did not let her eyes off of me and I could sense that she was in distress.
I truly hoped that she had chosen my property as a safe place to heal and decided to let her do just that.
Each day she would appear around the pond, eating at brush and leaves that remained. But unfortunately each day her leg got worse until she could barely keep her balance. Watching her hop cautiously from one spot to another became quite painful to see. She was clearly not getting better.
Meanwhile the presence of the injured deer in my yard was causing quite the drama and concern for other neighbours who are able to see into my property. Each day the deer was the topic of worried dinner conversations around the neigbourhood.
Everyone wanted to help the deer. But none of us knew what to do.
I contacted the city of Pickering and the city of Toronto who told me they had already received numerous calls but that there was nothing they could do unless the animal was in severe pain and peril. According to animal services it was best to just let the deer wander off on her own. It was too dangerous to get close to the deer in case she panicked and stormed through someone’s sliding glass doors or into traffic and caused an accident.
Surprised that there wasn’t some sort of “action plan” for such a situation, I located a wildlife refuge a couple of hours’ drive from my property. I was informed that deer were the most difficult of animals to capture and rehabilitate. However they managed to locate a veterinarian up north who went way out of her way to come to my property to check on the deer. Finally, I hoped, someone could rescue the injured deer and bring her back to health.
I took the veterinarian down to where the deer usually was. But this time the deer appeared very agitated and took off quickly from us, likely making her injury even worse.
This was not going to be easy. And sadly, the veterinarian told me, not at all possible.
The ideal situation is that the deer is unable to run so that they can shoot her with a tranquilizer in order to inspect and treat her. But that is not a simple thing to do. And there are apparently very few tranquilizer guns in the Greater Toronto Area. At least not for something so insignificant, I suspect. It became obvious I was on my own here to simply watch this animal get weaker and weaker.
As the days went on she found her favourite spot to curl up in the sun which gave me a clear view of her each day from my desk.
Finally after a couple weeks of difficult sleeps full of worrying and knowing this creature was dying on my property it was time to put an end to it. Neighbours had offered to help pay for any cost of “doing what had to be done” and I had their blessing to make any difficult decisions.
On the last morning of the deer’s life I got close enough to her to see that she was truly suffering. She knew this was it too. She tried to get up and away from me but only lost her balance and practically summersaulted in great pain.
That was it. I called animal services and let them know they had to come immediately and that the deer was suffering in excruciating pain. They asked if they had permission to come onto my property with police and I said yes.
I left for a client meeting but was called within 30 minutes and told that it was over. The police shot the deer. It was a relief to hear from the officer that it was the right thing to do. She was all skin and bones and her leg was diseased. Not even any deer meet could be saved.
I came back home hours later to see bloody evidence of the drama in the snow. It was very upsetting for the neighbours. I’m not sure if it was easier that I wasn’t there. Now I can only imagine how it was. But either way it was a very sad day for my partner and I.
As I wrote to my mother in email shortly after:
“She has been sitting the past few days in the sunny spot at the very end of my bridge that crosses the creek. The neighbours behind us say that was her favourite spot. I watched her from my home office daily.
So this morning while watching her trip and tumble in nervousness after seeing some of us getting close to her there was only one thing left to do.
I once again called the animal services people from Pickering and told them the situation was now dire and they needed to come at once. They did. With the police.
Luckily I was not at home to witness anything but the neighbours were.
The animal services folks called me after to say that one shot was all it took to put her out of her misery. Very quick. The infection in her leg was very bad and they couldn’t even salvage any deer meat as she had become all skin and bones. They assured us it was the right thing to do.
Devin and I had a little cry this evening and went down to do a little prayer and left flowers at her spot at the foot of our bridge.
Very sad… But very special that she felt so safe in that spot that looked back up at our home.”
So, what to do when an injured deer shows up in your backyard? Appreciate the situation and enjoy their presence. They are big creatures and very powerful. And as I discovered, very wise.
Also know that animal services will come, but only if you make it clear that the situation is desperate and causing great trauma for the deer and the residents. In most cases the deer will simply wander away. So give the deer that chance.
Either way, it’s just another of many wonderful stories about living on a ravine lot in Pickering. There aren’t many ravine lots in the greater Toronto area and the value of buying a property like this can be priceless.
Written by Scott Hanton, Broker for The Weir Team