Roadside cleanup saves a life

When I headed west of Scottsbluff this morning to join other members of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club for a roadside cleanup, I figured we might come across some roadkill.

I sure didn’t expect the small survivor we found in the tall grass along with discarded beer cans and fast food bags.

I was scanning the ground and trailing a bag of trash along the south side of the road near Riverside Golf Course when I stopped short, startled by coming upon a freshly killed doe directly in front of me that had been partly obscured by tall greenery. I didn’t look too closely, as her innards had spilled out, and it wasn’t a real pretty sight.

A moment later, my attention was diverted as other WNBC members called out: “Here’s her fawn. And it’s still alive!”

Ohmygosh!

I headed in their direction, about 30 feet away from the dead doe, fearing I’d find a grievously injured animal in need of euthanasia.

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Members of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club engaged in a roadside cleanup contemplate what to do about an orphaned fawn they found hidden in the grass, several yards away from its dead mother. (You can just see the fawn in this picture – the patch of brown center front.)

But the tiny fawn seemed fine, apart from a minor scuff on its ear. It lay in the grass, breathing steadily, obeying instinct to wait quietly for its mother to come.

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We bike club members obeyed our own instinct to help the helpless creature, resisting the urge to touch it and instead marking the location and calling for professional help.

One person called the emergency dispatch center to request a relay message to someone from Nebraska Game & Parks.

It being a Saturday on Memorial Day weekend, I wondered if anyone from Game & Parks would be available to respond in time, so I texted my friend Sarah Pinet of Victory Hill Farm, who once worked at Riverside Discovery Center, to ask if she knew a wildlife rehabilitator. She did: Shelley Lonsdale. (Nebraska Game & Parks contacted her as well. She’s the only licensed wildlife rehabilitator in our area.)

I called Shelley and left a message explaining what we’d found. She called right back and said she could be onsite in about 40 minutes.

She was concerned with making sure the fawn was out of harm’s way, and also that the fawn didn’t wind up in the hands of a well-intentioned but unskilled caretaker before she got there. She explained that the task of rehabilitating an orphaned fawn was much more difficult if the young animal had been weakened by improper care from a Good Samaritan.

She also asked us to “look for the twin. Mom probably stashed the other one nearby.”

I assured her that the fawn was safe and remained well-hidden, and that I thought that we bicyclists would probably still be cleaning up the roadside until she arrived and could keep an eye out. I told her that we’d scoured the area pretty thoroughly looking for trash and hadn’t found another fawn.

About an hour after I called, Shelley and a helper arrived, along with someone from Game & Parks.

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Shelley gently lifts the fawn from its hiding place in the grass as a member of the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission looks on.

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Shelley briefly examined the fawn – a male – and found that its left hind leg was broken. “But it can be splinted,” she said, noting that the break was between the knee and hip and that both joints seemed fine. The little guy had a few superficial scrapes as well.

The Game & Parks person offered to start combing the area in search of another possible orphaned fawn.

But Shelley had noticed something.

“Where’s the mom?” she asked.

I pointed back up the road to where the doe lay.

If you’re squeamish, you’ll want to skip the next picture, and probably the following text, too. Scroll down to the next line of asterisks.

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What Shelley had noticed was that the fawn was still damp from amniotic fluid. When she saw the dead doe, her suspicions were confirmed.

Mom hadn’t cleaned the fawn off – because he hadn’t actually been born. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. The impact of the vehicle that hit the doe tore open her abdomen, delivering the apparently near-term fawn by accidental cesarean section.

No need to look for a missing twin – it was still encased in its amniotic sac, dead, like its mother.

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Licensed wildlife rehabilitator Shelley Lonsdale holds an orphaned fawn near the body of its mother. If you look closely at the large organ showing at the doe’s belly, you can make out the nose, eye, ear and spotted back of the orphaned fawn’s twin, which died along with its mother.

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So the doe and one fawn were dead, but, despite the broken leg, the miraculously living male fawn seemed hale and hearty.

He bleated and squirmed and swiveled his ears to catch what was going on around him (short video clip here).

Shelley joked about giving the fraught fawn a name like “Freeway.” I suggested that he should have a bicycle-related name, since he’d been found by the bike club. I started naming a few bicycle types and brands.

“I like Trek” Shelley said, smiling and looking down at the fawn. “This is Trek.”

Safely settled in Shelley’s lap in the car, Trek began sucking on Shelley’s fingers. He was hungry! A good sign.

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I’m sure pulling for the little guy.

And I’m so glad our Adpot-A-Spot cleanup session for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful was rescheduled to today from our previously rained-out date of April 30. If we hadn’t happened upon the fawn this morning, he surely would have died.

I’ll post updates as I get them from Shelley.

First update, via email and Facebook:

The break needed a splint, so Goshen [Veterinary Clinic] in Torrington, [Wyoming], helped me out. Trek has his splint and has eaten. it will be a long road to recovery, but I am hopeful he will be ok.

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Photo by Shelley Lonsdale

If anyone wants to contribute to the cost of Trek’s care, you can send donations to:

Goshen Veterinary Clinic
4548 US-85
Torrington, WY 82240

Update, via Facebook 5/30/16

He is having a much better day today. He even got to play outside for a while, but he gets tired quickly from having to drag his heavy splint. I am hoping we can get a lighter one for him soon. He goes back in next week for a check up on his leg.

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Photo by Shelley Lonsdale

Trek appears to be doing well!

Here’s a story from the Star-Herald newspaper about Trek and Shelley.

A happy/sad update 6/2/16, from Facebook (happy Trek has a buddy, sad that another fawn was orphaned and injured):

Trek got a new friend today. I hope she will recover from her injury as well as he is. Mom was hit, but I am not sure about her injuries. She has a spinal injury.

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Photo by Shelley Lonsdale

Update June 5

It seems that Trek is having some difficulties. Really hope he pulls through!

Trek had a rough day and night again yesterday but is doing much better this morning … he had me very worried last night, so it was another night of sleeping on the floor next to him and giving him electrolytes every hour, and this morning about 4 he ate some applesauce and is now acting normal again.

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Photo by Shelley Lonsdale

Update June 12

I wanted to tell you we had some more complications with trek the last couple days and unfortunately we lost him this morning …. I am very sorry and I did everything I could for him

RIP, little dude. We tried.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw, except photos courtesy of Shelley Lonsdale as credited

5 thoughts on “Roadside cleanup saves a life

  1. The little guy has had quite a traumatic adventure on his introduction to the world. Hope he pulls through. Good luck little Trek!

  2. What a great story! But, since I grew up there I know the kind of people there and this, once again, shows that! Thank You to all and Good Luck to Trek!

  3. So glad the sad story has a happy ending, at least one survived and is safe. I just saw 4 dead deer yesterday on the highway. It’s so very sad seeing dead animals. I wish humans would be more careful.

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