“Deer” Me — A Warning About Assumptions
Have you ever assumed a situation was hopeless because “the government” or “somebody” besides you – you being powerless — has determined that things are not going to change?
Take the case of the baby deer locked in a small, chain-link-enclosed, densely wooded area around a stormwater management (SWM) pond at the top of my street.
There’s no question that the profusion of deer in the midst of densifying suburban Montgomery County is annoying. In our yard, the animals have never even been delayed in their forage by a so-called “deer-resistant plant.” With the exception of the weeds, they eat everything that grows.
Nevertheless, sharing space as we do; it’s hard not to care about the deer.
Earlier this summer, a doe gave birth to twins inside the safety of the woodsy enclosure.
My husband John and I – as well as some of our neighbors — noticed the daily appearance of an adult female deer standing in broad daylight, outside the fenced enclosure, gazing in.
We followed her gaze to two spindly-legged fawns inside, at the double-padlocked gate.
Our hearts ached.
Clearly, mom can jump the fence – and has — but her speckled offspring cannot. How will they learn?
I tried to ignore the situation but even when the doe was not on the outside looking in, the fawns would be by the gate, looking out.
Sometimes, when I closed my eyes at night, I could see the fawns — their soft reddish fur marked with sweet rows of small white squares — standing by the gate with its two ugly locks.
“Don’t worry,” my husband assured me. “They’ll jump the fence when they get older. It’s instinct.”
I didn’t believe him. This was surely a case of “instinct interruptus” — and what did an engineer like him, know about that?
I began to believe that eventually, the fawns would starve. Certainly, even if John was correct, their social development would be stunted.
For reasons I chose not to explore, I felt empathy with the fawns.
I began to have insane, illegal, eco-heroic ideations.
I could buy some of those clippers criminals use on TV to snap padlocks…
But there would be problems.
Say, I executed the caper. Later, I knew I would be unable to resist blogging about it in the “hypothetical.”
Even if I claimed I had merely written about the idea and someone else did the deed, could law enforcement claim I incited the deed?
I tried to forget. Tried to be like my husband – the fawns’ plight certainly hadn’t bothered him.
One day I noticed my husband rummaging in the refrigerator.
“Do we have any carrots?” he asked casually.
“I’ll peel one for you,” I offered.
“ That’s okay,” he said. “No need to peel them.”
I stared at him. He had just returned from walking the dog. If he’d taken his regular route, he had passed the deer.
“You’re going to feed them?” I asked incredulously.
“One time won’t hurt them,” he responded.
We were both slipping beyond reason.
Hopelessly, I ‘Googled’ “fenced SWM enclosures.” Maybe others had faced the problem that was plaguing us.
The first information to come up was about a wondrous place called, “Rochester, Minnesota.” SWM ponds are not fenced in Rochester.
Oh, why couldn’t we live there?
Finally, set to write this blog — and to call it: “In Praise of Rochester,” I phoned the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection to confirm what I already knew – that the law required that all SWM ponds in the county be fenced — and to ask whether the baby deer situation had arisen in other enclosures.
When I told the woman who took the call about the baby deer, she murmured, “Oh the poor things.”
She asked me to hold while she transferred me. While on hold, my suspicious side took over. I visualized her sitting at her desk and laughing — as she attempted to gasp out the reason for my call — to a jaded coworker, accustomed to media inquiries.
The next voice I heard belonged to Amy Stevens, Montgomery County Manager, Stormwater Management Facilities Maintenance program.
There are no laws in the county requiring fences around stormwater management facilities, Stevens told me. “That requirement changed long ago.”
However, she said, the law does require that “a visible warning sign” be posted at the pond site and referred me to Section 36.3 of the Montgomery County Code.
After ascertaining that the property on which the pond was located belonged to the county, Ms. Stevens said she would take action to have the padlock removed from the gate and the gate opened so the animals could leave the enclosure.
I needed a lesson about assumptions — and from the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection — today, I got that.
I learned a lesson about making an assumption that something is hopeless. I was so sure the fawns were doomed; positive that the locks on the gate would be there forever.
I am also grateful that in Montgomery County, we have caring individuals like Amy Stevens and the folks she works with, doing the public’s work.
Sometimes it’s so good to be wrong.