Eight fawns were taken by horse trailer early in the morning and set free on a private ranch abundant with oak trees and water sources at an undisclosed location about 50 miles from Sacramento. The property is “completely secured from any type of hunting or any type of community accessibility,” said rescue founder Diane Nicholas.
Spirit was the last fawn out of the trailer but quickly trotted off alone up a hill, past a grove of oaks and into some brush, hidden from view. “Spirit seemed to know automatically that ‘this is where I belong,’” said Nicholas.
After munching on berry bushes, Spirit circled back to the other fawns and they headed to a marsh together. They played in the water before moving back to a bushy area. “That’s exactly what the deer is supposed to do,” said Nicholas. “They take cover in all the berry bushes and the marsh bogs and whatnot that are out in nature.”
Nicholas has been Spirit’s primary caretaker for five months, teaching it to bottle feed, overcoming health challenges and slowly introducing it to natural vegetation. Although she takes in nearly 200 fawns a year, it was her first time handling a true albino.
There’s always a concern on release days that the fawns will have become habituated to humans, Nicholas said. But seeing them adapt quickly to the natural environment assured her they’d done a good job “keeping them wild.”
Nicholas said there was a lot of discussion on social media about where the albino should end up. “Many people felt that Spirit should go to a zoo or some type of sanctuary. Other people said ‘No, Spirit should be free.’”
But Nicholas said the rescue’s purpose, as permitted by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, is clear.
“We rescue and rehabilitate fawns that are to be released back into the wild,” she said.
“So Spirit will live a free life out in a very safe environment,” she said, acknowledging that predators and other issues make life in nature unpredictable. “I think Spirit is living the life that Spirit is meant to live.”