Mythology is full of legends of white deer. One Chickasaw story describes a man who shot a white stag with an arrow and never returned to his tribe to marry his beloved. To this day, the white deer is sacred to the Chickasaw people.
But when a truck driver came across a white deer in the middle of the road in Woodland, he thought it might be a lamb or a goat. He pulled over after swerving to avoid it and realized the animal needed help. Unsure what to do, he called Diane Nicholas at the Kindred Spirits Fawn Rescue in Loomis.
It was Nicholas’ first albino deer rescue in her 13 years doing them. They are incredibly rare, though Nicholas has seen one in the wild before. She brought the fawn back to her home, where she shelters rescued deer in her yard.
“It has to have a special little enclosure because we’re worried about the sun right now,” Nicholas said. “We don’t know enough about how impacted they are as babies.”
Albino animals often have difficulty in the wild because they often have poor eyesight, and their coloring makes it harder to camouflage themselves, according to National Geographic. Nicholas said that no mother for the 3-week-old fawn was around, and she’s not sure how it ended up sitting in the middle of the road.
Nicholas has plenty of stories just as wild as the albino deer because she and her crew of volunteers take in, raise and release 50 to 80 fawns per year and treat many more in the wild. She shelters them in her yard using a complicated series of fences to manage their health and their interactions with other deer, and all of her charges are released in the fall after hunting season.
Nicholas’ work as an interior designer steered her toward deer rescuing. She often worked with builders whose subdivisions displaced animals as they cleared the land.
“It was kind of tugging at my heart because I felt like I’m part of an industry that’s displacing animals, and I love animals so much,” Nicholas said. She grew up with animals and as a child charged her friends to visit her own petting zoo.
Kindred Spirits is pretty busy with calls for help right now. Anyone concerned about a deer can call its hotline at 520-889-5822 for help, and Nicholas also works with game wardens from the state Fish and Wildlife Department and the California Highway Patrol to help animals in need.
Nicholas said people should watch out for a few things to avoid injuring deer. Does often have twins, so when a deer crosses a road, it’s important for drivers to scan to make sure more are not coming.
Keeping dogs leashed as much as possible is helpful as well, because dogs sometimes go sniffing in bushes and may grab a fawn. Campers and fishers often find fawns in water, too. Nicholas said it is OK to pick up a fawn, but if you call the hotline, she can help determine whether the fawn needs to be rescued or if it’s better to leave it in nature.
Does often leave the fawns stowed away while they look for food, but they come back to nurse and move the fawn, Nicholas said.
“This is wildlife, and wildlife says ‘I’ve got a safe little spot to tuck my baby,’” Nicholas said. That doesn’t mean a fawn has been abandoned. She said people frequently call her hotline, convinced that a baby is motherless, only to call back a few hours later to tell Nicholas she was right: The doe returned for her fawn.
Nicholas urged anyone to call the hotline at 530-889-5822 if they have concerns about deer that may need help, and she asked that people not remove fawns until guided to do so by the fawn rescue team unless the fawn is obviously injured or in harm’s way.
Kindred Spirits also always looks for volunteers to help with transportation, since sometimes she needs to stay home to tend to deer already in her care. Volunteers looking to help with caring for the deer on-site are welcome, but they must complete a training day that happens in April, Nicholas said. And volunteering at the shelter itself is not about cuddling with cute animals.
“The more the fawns see people, the more habituated they become,” Nicholas said. “We want them wild when they are released.”
Kindred Spirits is licensed by Fish and Wildlife and serves Placer, Yolo, Sacramento and Nevada counties. It is funded by donations, which can be made on the website or Facebook page. Nicholas urged the public to remember that deer are wild and are not meant to be raised as pets, which can be dangerous and bad for the animal.