The Time I Herded a Fawn


So, this morning, I was working on a post when I heard a frantic bleating sound outside. Like a sheep or goat in trouble. I ran outside to check and discovered this craziness:
Gwennie was out to potty, and Chloe had let herself out of her field, which has been a recurring problem recently. And they had a new friend. You can see above Gwennie biting its neck and Casper biting its leg. To the dogs, this was an invader to their pasture.
Not a happy little fawn.
Whenever the fawn could get away from them for a second, it was haplessly flinging itself at the woven wire fencing and bleating like mad.
First I grabbed Chloe and dragged her, pulled her, forced her back to the goat yard, shutting that gate.
Gwennie waited patiently with her new friend. The horses came to inspect the visitor.
Then I grabbed Gwennie and dragged her, pulled her, forced her back to the house. Casper is a follower, not a leader, so left to himself, he’s not a problem. But by this time Chloe had escaped from the goat yard and was ready to make her way back into the sheep field to the fawn.
And I was already exhausted because I just got done dragging two 100-pound dogs across the farm. And the fawn was slowly walking up the creek. Which at least was heading in the right direction, out of the field.
Chloe nudged her way under a fence and back into the field. I got into the creek, between the fawn and Chloe, encouraging the fawn to keep going in the right direction. I was herding a fawn. Which works pretty much the same as other animals! Except that I began to realize the fawn was exhausted. Despite the fact that it was being followed by me and Chloe, it kept stopping and sometimes sitting down.

I thought about where it must have gotten into the field. The sheep field is a lower field that connects to the two upper pastures. There’s woven wire in the lower fields and the first upper field. Maybe it jumped the woven wire. But more likely is that it came in through the second upper pasture, where it could slip through the fence, not have to jump it. No way to know for sure, but I couldn’t see it making it back up and out to the back pasture. Or even any further down the creek. And with Chloe getting out, that was going to be trouble. I didn’t want to take the fawn, but as I weighed the options, I couldn’t see a better one, for its best chance. I couldn’t see any major wounds, just small cuts. Maybe it had an internal injury, no way to know that by looking, but it might have just been shock and exhaustion.

So I picked up the fawn. It was heavy. You can see from its size compared to the dogs that it is no newborn fawn, despite still having its spots. I carried it all the way from the back of the sheep field to the back door of the house, banged on the door with my boot until I managed to wake up one of my sleeping children because after dragging off two Pyrs and carrying that fawn out of the field, I couldn’t take it another step.
Weston got a towel, which amused me greatly since I was covered in mud and fawn fur at this point.

We put the fawn in a stall in the barn. I took a shower and called the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, who transferred me to the wildlife division, which was voice mail. I left a message. Then went out to check on the fawn and it was dead.

You know, I have a lot of purposeful livestock on which to expend my time and energy. We eat deer meat at my house. On several levels, this entire episode seems semi-ridiculous. Especially since the fawn quickly died, despite my efforts. And yet…. I have no idea what else I could have done, or would do if presented the exact same set of circumstances again.

What would you do?


  1. daria says:

    I think you did the right thing – I don’t know what else you could have done. Your dogs are doing their jobs. Maybe tighten up the fence where you think the fawn sneaked in?

  2. jodiezoeller says:

    I would try to help the fawn too. You don’t eat fawns, you marvel at them and their young cuteness, even if you do eat deer meat at your house. I would eat venison too, if my Dad was still around and went hunting. Sorry that the little deer died. Sounds like she had a rough day.

  3. silentgoddess says:

    I would have done exactly what you did. And then had a good cry (and cursed a blue streak) after it was all said and done. So sorry all of your efforts ended with the fawn’s death. I don’t know what else you could have done.

  4. amateisgal says:

    Like the others said, I would have done exactly the same thing as you. I’m so sorry the poor thing died. Probably from shock over everything. But you did all you could.

  5. brookdale says:

    Yes, you did exactly the right thing. The dogs might have injured or even killed it, because they thought it was a threat.
    But…I wonder if the mother deer was in the woods watching the whole thing? Was the fawn trying to get back to its mother? We’ll never know of course. Too bad someone wasn’t around at the Game Warden place to take your call. Even though they would have been too late to do anything.
    Just another exciting day on the farm!

  6. ksredhead says:

    So let me get this straight… your dogs were KILLING A FAWN and you stopped to take pictures of it?

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      I took the photos when I first walked out there. I almost always bring my camera with me when I hear a commotion. I zoomed in to see what was going on and took some pictures. When I realized what was happening, I put it down and started dealing with the situation. In fact, I often use my zoom on my camera to figure out what’s going on out in the fields. The photos took seconds. Then I about killed myself dragging dogs off it and clear across the farm, so really. I’m often amazed at what people will criticize.

  7. holstein woman says:

    I’m sorry Suzanne, those things are hard to deal with. I also think you did the right thing.
    My children found a fawn a couple of years ago and when they moved to the country they took it with them. It was still wild, but friendly. It ate all of the neighbors new plantings and every flower my daughter had. Over the year it got so friendly that it was found in town humping a man. Needless to say he shot it. You did the right thing!

  8. Remudamom says:

    You did what you could. The only thing left is to shake it off and move on. Farm stuff happens.

  9. Claudia W says:

    I have found that nature has strange ways of taking care of “things”. I have hit birds while driving down the road and they died. Well, I found out that birds will commit a sort of “suicide”.
    If you have ever noticed, birds will swoop down in front of cars and then magically swoop out of the way at the last minute. Okay, my point here is…That fawn may have been dying anyway.
    I would have done exactly the same thing you did. EXACTLY. Except I would not have had the strength to pull those dogs to their prospective places. You did the best you could. I think nature was actually doing what nature does, in its strange ways…

  10. silentgoddess says:

    You taking pictures would not have changed the outcome. Don’t listen to trolls. Last thing you need is someone criticizing you on YOUR blog.

    It is possible that the fawn’s mother knew something was wrong with it and abandoned it. And your dogs were doing their job. I know of some ranchers who would have done NOTHING to help.

    To end on a lighter note…
    The picture of Weston holding the fawn with the towel is heartwarming. I am guessing he is as kind-hearted as he looks? He has such kind, loving energy about him.

  11. Audrey324 says:

    Given all of the circumstances of what happened, I think you did all you possibly could do. Especially carrying that baby all the way back to the house to try to get some help. I know it had to be a shock to find it had died so quickly. I know I wasn’t expecting that. It could have been already sick, exhausted, and confused before it ever even made it into your yard. I understand about raising animals for food, and I have eaten deer for food too. But it doesn’t make it any easier for what just happened. Yes, you have your own herds to worry about, but it just shows your kind and tender heart, that despite all you have to worry over, you still took the time to try to save that little lost baby. <3 You did all you could Suzanne.

  12. Tow Lady says:

    As the others have said, nature isn’t always pretty, but you went over and beyond to help the fawn. If you want to see pretty pictures, watch National Geographic. As for me, I think you’re doing a pretty awesome job of riding life’s roller coaster and making it a better place along the way for those you encounter…furry, fleecy, spotted, two-legged, or four-legged. Keep up the good work.

  13. milesawayfarm says:

    I used to work for a Fish and Game office. We dealt with a lot of wildlife calls. Fawns are born without a smell. Often times, Mama will leave them in a place she thinks is safe, where the fawn is camouflaged by its location, and go off to eat for the day. We used to get phone call after phone call from people who found a fawn. The fawns instinct was to hold still to avoid detection. People assumed it was hurt or abandoned because it didn’t run away, scooped it up, and took it home. A wildlife rehabilitator I became good friends with had raised many an orphaned fawn. She said that even though they were healthy, they never were accepted back into the herd once released as young adults, and were usually picked off by predators fairly quickly. She eventually refused to hehab any more. And lets face it, deer are pretty much ubiquitous, bordering on way to many, in a lot of the US. While its sad to lose the individual, the impact on the herd is negligible. SO sorry you had to go through this. Best thing would have been to take it back out into the woods, on the other side of the fence, where the dogs could not get to it, and let Mama find it or let nature take its course. I’m kind of guessing Mama was dead, given the location of the fawn in your pens, but who knows? Had a dog of mine get into the rabbits I raise the other day and kill one. And it was totally my fault. I left a gate open. It was late and I was tired. This stuff is never easy. (But we ate the rabbit, who’s skin was not broken, for dinner last night. Now I’m probably on someone’s hit list!).

  14. outbackfarm says:

    That’s so sad. But really, you have livestock gaurdian dogs. That’s what they do, protect their flocks and herds. Dogs aren’t thinking about whether an animals is all cute and fluffy and sweet. They just see an invador on their property and do what they were born to do.

    I agree with what someone else said, about the fawm possibly being sick already. There is nothing you could have done anyway.

    My dogs killed a possum in my milk room a few weeks ago. I was quite proud of them. And they also kill snakes. I get flack about that all the time from people who would have “rescued” the poor wild animals. I have no compassion for snakes at all. Or possums and racoons. They eat my chickens. And a snake will kill me or my grand kids.

    And I also just love the picture of your son holding the fawn. So sweet.

  15. EMarie says:

    You are a good and wise woman Suzanne.

  16. Sue, a Florida Farm Girl says:

    Good for you!!! Caring whether the poor fawn lived or died under those circumstances has nothing to do with eating venison. I hope I’d have done the same.

  17. doubletroublegen says:

    So sorry for the baby fawn. You’re dogs were doing what guardian livestock dogs do- guarding against intruders. Even though this one was so tiny and meant no harm to your animals. We have had fawn trapped inside our woven wire also- it’s so traumatic watching them try to escape such fencing. Life on a farm is never dull!! You did what you could as best you could. :heart:

  18. California Paintbrush says:

    I don’t think the dogs were bent on “killing a fawn” or it would have been dead. Deer are very sensitive and can be tramatized easily. Our park service tried to move deer about 12 miles up to the hills but they all died from the move.

    As we all know, you did what you could. It is hard to see any baby animal die.

  19. MousE says:

    Oh no! That’s very sad. Suzanne, I think if I had been in your shoes, I would have done exactly the same thing. And then had a cry. I don’t see what else you could have done, you did your best under trying circumstances, and although the outcome was sad, still, you did your best. Unfortunately these things happen….. all the best to you and yours, I am glad you have your children with you right now.

  20. Leck Kill Farm says:

    Ah yes, the cute factor of the animal in question plays a big part in “judging” people in these situations.

    I would have stopped after herding the fawn away, I wouldn’t have brought it down to the barn. (or maybe you couldn’t keep the dogs away? I would have prevented the dogs from continuing to attack, which you did)

    In my state, I am certain the game commission or DCNR would do absolutely nothing about a hurt and/or abandoned fawn, the roads are littered with dead adults as it is.

  21. denisestone says:

    You did everything that you could have done. Unfortunately, Gwennie’s bite around the neck was most-likely the fatal blow. (My dog Jake took out one of my goats with the same blow. Not much blood, but internal injury.) You did everything I would have done. I would do the same thing in the future if it happened again. Unfortunately, it might. But you can’t help that because of how your property situated with relationship to the woods. I wouldn’t let the meat go to waste though.

  22. OCHousewife says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought about why the pictures being taken while all this was going down. My first thought is not to grab my camera. I don’t think the person who asked that question is a troll. I’m not a troll. I don’t feel like one. When a person writes a blog and posts a story like this, there will be questions and potential criticism of the content. It was a bad day, a bad situation and no good resolution and I was very sorry to read all about it.

  23. MelW says:

    It’s tough to know what the right thing to do is. I think you did all you could under the circumstances and I don’t think I could have done better. It is very sad about the fawn but at least you know your guardians are doing their job.

  24. Faith says:

    You did good. I know, I live in WV among the deer. I also know that it takes many telling you, reassuring you, to combat the negative comments. I know your heart is telling you that you did the best you could…LISTEN to it!

  25. Darlene says:

    I would have done exactly what you did. The negative folks all live in the city and have no clue about the real world of farming or raising livestock. Snapping a picture along the way, so what. A second here and there will make zero difference in the outcome. If the mother was alive she would have been fighting off the dogs. Anyway that has been my experience.

  26. Charlene says:

    Suzanne, you did the best you could. It’s heartbreaking and I’m sorry you had to experience this.

  27. pensiero says:

    The dogs did their job. You did yours. I’m sorry you had to deal with the death of any animal and the fact that anyone would question your actions is incomprehensible. Don’t feed the trolls.

  28. laurah says:

    I’m so sorry that the trolls have the nerve to come out and criticize you for what happened to the fawn. Here are my conclusions (total broken record by this point, I know, but here goes)
    1.) You have LGDs and they did exactly what they are supposed to do. Identify and nullify intruders. This includes *cute* *little* *fawns*.

    2.) Fawns are very peculiar creatures, and will survive (and die!) in the most unlikely scenarios.

    3.) White-tailed deer (which I assume is the make/model of said fawn) are woodland RATS. In our neck of the woods, deer are vermin. They injure/kill people because they are stupid enough to jump out in front of a GIGANTIC MOVING OBJECT MADE OUT OF 2,000 LBS OF STEEL. Smart animals? I think not.

    Also, like a previous commenter stated, these animals, even full grown, are so dumb that you can relocate them 15 miles from their original habitation, and the damn things will die of starvation. Yes, the babies are cute. Yes, I feel sad when any animal is being chewed on by multiple dogs. If the fawn were a mountain lion (cougar, puma, whatever name you call it) instead, would said trolls be up in your face? Maybe, maybe not.

    You did what you could do. You did what many of us would have done. You are a great woman, Suzanne. Don’t let the trolls get you down.

  29. Urbanite says:

    I agree with almost everything else that you did the right thing; more than many would have done.

    I don’t want to be an excessive worrier, but a number of people have suggested that the fawn might have already been sick. Is there any risk to your dogs if any of the bites drew blood? It would be tragic if there were any other negative consequences from this incident. More than likely they are OK, but I couldn’t help wondering.

  30. bonita says:

    RE: picture-taking—Sometimes a person can interpret an unfamiliar scene more easily through a viewfinder than without the aid of lenses. Your4s is a photo blog, and I suspect, barring stepping into a gopher hole, you often tour your farm making extensive use of the camera’s lenses.
    The fawn–can’t imagine what else you might have done. I would have tried to do the same as you did, but I’m afraid I might not have been able to pull off the dogs. Great picof Weston.

  31. Dghawk says:

    I’m with everyone else, Suzanne. I would have done the same thing. When you love and have animals, I think that it’s instinctive when adult trained animals go after a any baby animal. You did what you could and that’s all you could do.

  32. VGibs says:

    The saying in my house goes like this “If you have livestock, you have deadstock.” Your dogs did what comes natural to them. Had it been a raccoon or a grisly bear, or sasquatch :dancingmonster: someone would have applauded your dogs. You did what comes natural to you, and you did everything right. I know you would’ve kept that little deer and probably made it a blog star *like Clover, the precious little goat girl*

  33. SarahGrace says:

    What would I have done? Not what you did. For one, I probably wouldn’t have even seen it since I don’t have and wouldn’t have thought to look through the camera to see what was going on. Second, once I did know the dogs were attacking, I wouldn’t have the courage, I don’t think, to try to physically haul them off, especially if I didn’t have my big stick within reach. Dogs are strong and it can be SOOOOO dangerous to step in/between in such a situation. In my opinion, you went above and beyond in trying to save the fawn. I probably would have yelled and woken up the menfolk and would have had a bloody mess by the time they/we could get out there.

    As to posting the pictures, my first thought when I saw the picture of the dog biting the neck was that it was playing. It’s what dogs do with other dogs and since I didn’t see any blood it’s what I assumed until I read farther down. Should you have posted a warning? Personally, I don’t think so. You take pictures and blog about your farm. There’s going to be messiness. Any warning you post is an extra step on your part and should be appreciated, not assumed as an expected action. I wonder how many people do NOT continue to read when they see a warning? I see worse things in places that I don’t seek out then I do when I read your blog–knowing it’s about farm life.

  34. ibpallets (Sharon B.) says:

    You did everything you could and the dogs did their job.

    Your camera is like an appendage on you-Even when you’re sitting it’s either on your shoulder or beside you and I think using the telephoto lens was a smart move. I don’t think I would have thought to do that

    People are good at telling you what they would do…but here’s the thing- you don’t really know what you’d do unless you are in that situation. Don’t give another thought to the “know it alls” I doubt they would or could have done any better.

  35. Linda Goble says:

    I gotta say you did everything you could, by the time you got down there the damage was probably already done.. Any ways where was the momma, If she was a orphan she might of not survived anyways with Coyotes and wild dogs or such. I am proud you went and tried to help cause like most people said a lot of people out there wouldn’t of.. Why do people have to be such hypercritical. You love when Suzanne post good and you complain when something like this happens. Those dogs were doing what they are trained to do and that is to protect the live stock from any thing out there. Suzanne is lucky she didn’t get serious injured getting into the middle of that. She could of accidentally got bit or the fawn could of bit or got her with her hooves. I love this blog and it is here to teach us the ways of farm life the good and the bad…
    I am sorry the fawn got killed just like you Suzanne. I would of also tried to help. People need to realize that you didn’t know in the beginning that the dogs were harming it…

  36. Auntie Linda says:

    I don’t really have anything to offer other than my support. You made the right decisions under less than optimal circumstances, and I applaud you for having the courage to step in and do what you could. Many would not, and would shriek and wring their hands in horror. Keep doing it your way, Suzanne. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, criticize.

  37. Naturegirl46 says:

    How horrifying. You fearlessly did everything you could do with compassion. In the deer world, the fawn died a natural death. In the dog world, your dogs were doing their job. Don’t let the turkeys get you down, Suzanne – they never stop trying.

  38. Cheryl LeMay says:

    What a day you had! You are a brave woman to get between 3 dogs and their prey. Dogs go after deer all the time – they were doing what comes natural. I would have just let them have it and dealt with the remains afterward. I do believe Gwennie’s neck bite is what did they fawn in. It probably bled internally and just got weaker until it died. Something like that happened with one of our dogs and a chicken. The chicken flew over the fence in front of the waiting dog( how’s that for suicide?) who grabbed it. I was right there and took the bird from him. At first I thought nothing wrong but she faded away. I opened her up and found one puncture wound into a lung. So you did more than most people and don’t feel guilty. There was nothing more you could do.

  39. Caddycat says:

    Sad that the little fawn died, but nature has her own ways to deal with her animals. I could not have done as much as you to help the little thing. You have a good heart.

  40. bbkrehmeyer says:

    When one puts out a “blog” it becomes open and public to millions of people (if they choose to read it) You have to know that there will be ones who will criticize what you post or print. Not everyone will agree with what you do or don’t do.
    I do find it interesting that your modiator removes the blogs which criticize your actio
    She must know that each one she removes probably won’t be one of your book buyers… Maybe you have enough presales that you don’t care…
    I enjoy a good discussion between opposite opinions. Farm life is anything but sweet little kind loving animals doing their cute little things for smitten city folk. Its blood sweat and tears. When you eliminate those folks who know,you are essentially losing a large fan base.
    Please don’t delete those “nasty” comments. They give your blog some bite!

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      bbkrehmeyer, I don’t know what you mean about anyone removing any comments that are critical. No comments have been deleted, here or on Facebook either. I also don’t know what you mean about a moderator removing blogs??? (I don’t even know what that means, but it hasn’t happened.)

  41. SanAntonioSue says:

    Bless your heart, Suzanne!! You did the best you knew how to do!! This is exactly why the Lord (in this situation) puts in the process of natural selection in our world. I would take it as an honor to be “chosen” as a deer for food/ sustenance for my family. He loves us all that much!!! Ain’t no Bible beater, but know this is for the greater good of all. (((Hugs))). We all should be thankful He loves us that much to care about our health and well-being. I know I am 🙂

  42. Farmerpeg says:

    Hi Suzanne, I’ve been following your blog for a while now and have been reading your posts regarding the fawn and thought I’d jump in with my thoughts. I’m new to farming and don’t have a whole lot of experience but I have seen dogs attack and kill animals on my property. The wild animals they leave alone! 😉 It is always disturbing to watch and even more upsetting because the dog in particular who did the killing refused to listen to my commands to back off. Once they get into what we call the “red zone” it’s impossible for them to hear you let alone listen to you. That said, I think when you own a breed such as the pyr or any powerful breed, you have to be extra responsible because next time it could be the neighbours dog, or a kid riding his bike too close to the pasture. I’m not saying your dog would, but these breeds are known to protect their flock from anything they believe is a threat. So in response to your question, “What would you do?” I think you handled the situation the best you could. Perhaps your post was a little too lighthearted such as “not a happy fawn” when three big dogs appear to be on top of her killing her, but it is your blog and you can put whatever you want on it. I would recommend however working with your dogs and their recalls and perhaps hire a professional dog trainer who may specialize in that type of breed. I think that if someone is going to own these large and powerful dogs, they should also learn to have a firm control over them. They can do a lot of harm. It is not the dog’s fault as they were doing exactly what they were bred to do, but in the case of “mistaken identity”, you want to be able to pull them off with a simple command. JMHO

  43. PaulaA says:

    Suzanne, as a wildlife rehabilitator, I’m dismayed that the dogs would harm wildlife, but I suppose the whole reason you have them is to harm wildlife when it comes right down to it. I don’t have livestock, but I assume the purpose of having a protector dog is tto guard them from wild predators. I don’t have any knowledge about whether they are supposed to know the differnce between a predator and a non-predator, but I wish they did.

    I also applaud your efforts to help the deer, and I’m sad that all of you had to go through the whole sorry mess.

    If I were you, I would put the number of a wildlife rehabilitator next to my phone. They can often be much more responsive and available than state wildlife departments, and more able to give you advice you can use. Being in the country, there may be numerous times that you wish to help a wild animal. You could start with The Blue Ridge Wildlife Center and they may be able to refer you to someone more local to your area.
    God Bless.

  44. susanhumeston says:

    Deer are one of the animals, like rabbits, that can die from fright/stress. That is probably what killed it.

  45. bonita says:

    Jill Shalvis’ publisher is sending a crew to tape a trailer for one of her books. The director has stopped by and suggested Jill might do something with her hair. All I could think of is what would a director say about a farm woman who herds fawns in her undies and chore boots!!!

  46. The High Altitude Tea Duchess says:

    I don’t see what else you could have done. It must have been hard to do all that and then have the poor thing die. Hugs from Colorado!

  47. carol decker says:

    I think the problem was when you asked “what would you do?” People are going to TELL you what they would do and it may or may not be the same way you handled that situation.You may not like what they have to say. Right or wrong people are going to react to a picture of a fawn being attacked by 3 dogs. Maybe it would have been better not to have posted that picture, especially with the caption “not a happy little fawn” but again this is your blog and you can post anything that you like. One person commented on possibly having a command word to call off the dogs in an emergency. I agree that would be a good thing for dogs that large. This is just my humble opinion. All in all, a lesson learned.

  48. sidneysmith says:

    Hi Ms McMinn,
    I stubbled across this blog and I know you may have had several responses that are the same. But I live on a farm in Kentucky and we deal with fawns all the time. Especially during hay harvesting time. In most cases the doe isn’t that far away, and will come back when things calm down.
    But in this case you did the right thing since the dogs scent was all over it, the doe would not have taken its fawn back. but i wouldn’t worry about the dogs being the killers. Usually baby animals get very stressed and when that happens its very hard to get them to survive, but you can get lucky in saving them. I think you did a t job all in all.

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