Sunset Dinners with Jo

From my previous post in "Superior Northwoods News":

"She had a bad leg, so during the winter of 2021 I fed her away from the others, so that she didn't have to try to compete for the food in the midst of flying hooves. She trusted me to provide her with a serving of pellets, a sprinkle of corn and acorns and even a bucket of water so that she didn't have to go down the ridge for a drink while eating the dusty pellets. It was nice to sit with her in quiet companionship as she ate her evening meal. She didn't come back for the 2022 season. I lost a friend."

[Jo following me through the woods.]

~Jo did not return for the winter feeding season of 2022, so I feared that something had happened to her. The third week of January, 2023 I left the house to put out a trail cam where we had been seeing coyote tracks. A doe and her fawn followed me all the way out and all the way back. I thought that was a bit unusual and when we arrived back at the house I took a better look at the doe. It was Jo! I knew for sure when I noticed that her front left leg was just a bit shorter than her right. That clinched it and I found my old pictures to compare and it definitely was her! I don't know where she had been the previous year, but here she was and she remembered that she received special treatment when it came to mealtime. I once again gave her her own pan of food as well as a bowl of water to wash down those dry pellets. She brought her fawn with her to eat and within a couple of weeks she had another fawn following her around that did not look like her but stayed with her, nevertheless. I observed her being very gentle and not pushing her fawns aside as many does do, when they are eating, but let them eat right alongside.

[Allowing her fawns to eat first. Not ice cream! :) ]

~All season I fed her and her fawns separately their own pans of pellets and bucket of water. She was the first deer that I had ever seen drink out of a pan or bucket but soon others (like Popcorn!) followed suit and seemed to enjoy a drink of fresh water. We have a stream behind the house that runs through the entire property but it is down a steep ridge so it's much easier to get a drink from the bucket!

[Eating pellets and apple at the back door with her bucket of water]

~She is also the first deer that I have ever seen put up their hackles. If I go outside to walk the pups and need to get past her, she will lower her ears and the hair on her back (up to just a few inches before her tail) will rise just as a dog will raise their hackles when threatened. She doesn't run or charge or act agressively in any way and she will even follow us for a bit. I think she is making sure that I am safe. We have a bond. She doesn't eat from my hand but will eat from her pan while I sit just a few feet away and gazes at me trustingly with her beautiful and expressive brown eyes. She knows that I am there to help her in any way that I can. 

[Ears lowered and hackles up.]

~She is always the last deer to be standing outside the door just before sunset. It seems to be Jo's favorite time. We have spent many companionable evenings watching the sun go down over Lake Superior while she quietly munches her pellets and then she meanders off to where her fawns are waiting and to bed down for the night.

[A beautiful sunset shared with Jo.]

~I last saw Jo and her fawns three days ago.  It was during a hot spell of weather and our snow melted quickly. They had joined the herd for the morning feed but I have not seen them since. I am holding her in my heart and hope that next winter we can share more sunset time together.

[My last photo of Jo, April 10, 2023. You can see how her left leg is shorter than her right.]

~Safe travels, Jo, and I'll see you next year girl!