Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mountain Miracles

You may have seen in our last post a picture of a tiny little deer fawn. He (Paolo named it Alfredo) is just one of the many beautiful small miracles I have seen these last few days in Val di Fassa. 

Yesterday, we went mushroom hunting. While we found no mushrooms (at least, none we could eat), we did find something much, much better! Alfredo lay in the tall grass just off the trail, in a small, steep, and pristine mountain meadow. None of us had ever seen a young deer, and this one didn't move a muscle, even though we were close enough to touch him. He was so young, he hadn't even learned to be afraid of people yet. We were surprised to find it without its mother, and wondered if maybe it was sick, or hurt, or something had happened to her. But we took pictures and went on our way. An hour and a half later, on our descent, the little guy was still there, in the exact same spot. We started to get a little concerned for him, so after some discussion (we weren't sure what was the right thing to do, and thought maybe we might need to take him to the forest service people or something), I picked him up and we carried him to a little restaurant that was nearby off the trail.

Yep, you read that right. I got to hold a wild, baby fawn. Judging by his size, he was probably about a week old. Maybe a foot long, with tiny, delicate, spindly legs ending in miniscule black hooves as shiny as patent leather. He had huge liquid black eyes framed with long eyelashes and a velvety black nose, that was wet on the tip and twitched whenever he took a breath. His tiny pink tongue darted in and out every now and then, and he had huge, alert ears. He was soft!- this surprised me, as the fur of adult deer is pretty coarse- and his back was mottled with the speckled white markings to act as camouflage as it lays in the grass, though we had spotted him quite easily. I could feel him breathing and his tiny heart beating very fast. In other words, he was absolutely perfect in every way. 

While all this was going on, we got the guy who rain the restaurant, or baita, (he wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer) to call the local forest service, who, in typical Italian fashion, failed to answer, and then the mayor of the town. (Not sure why the mayor, but I guess he thought he might know what to do.) Anyways, the mayor thought we should just leave him where we found him. So we put him in a box for the trip back (he had been struggling quite a bit earlier) and left him in the grass under a tree, further from the trail this time, but near where we had found him. We were a little worried about him, but Dad decided that we could come back in a couple of hours and if he was still there, then maybe something really was wrong and we should take him to get help. Give nature another chance to do its thing, which it generally does very well. Dad was quite concerned, but I was pretty sure his mother would come back for him eventually.

Well, we went home and told the rest of the family about it. Mom and Emma, who had not been on the hike, were very disappointed to hear that they had missed such an adventure. In the meantime, we called the forest service again, who did answer this time, and replied that this was the period when new fawns were born, and it was quite common for the mothers to leave them for an extended period of time while they went to graze or whatever, since they weren't very strong yet. Trusting their natural camouflage, I guess. After lunch they went back with Dad to see Alfredo. Much to my relief, when they returned, they reported that he was gone- a bit of a disappointment for them, who would have loved to see such a marvel of nature close up, but really the best case scenario in the end, since it meant that his mother must have come back for him. (We were not on a very well-used trail, we had put him in a more out-of-the-way spot, hunting was prohibited in the area, the restaurant had been empty, and the guy who ran it was certainly not the proactive type.)

So while I admit that picking up a baby wild animal may not have been the most LNT-friendly or prudent decision (although it being a deer, the risk was relatively low), and we disturbed the poor little guy unnecessarily (the lesson is: if you find a baby deer in the grass, observe it from afar and take pictures, but leave it alone, because nature and its mother know what they're doing), it was certainly an extraordinarily special experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. 

Some more mountain miracles... including the great-grandpappy of all snails (I do love snails), some gorgeous butterflies, and a mushroom so perfect and round and white it almost sparkles!

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