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Fawn rescues increase, so do expenses for Kindred Spirits

Diane Nicholas checks on an orphaned fawn she calls Anna, who was unable to stand or lift her head when animal control called Kindred Spirits Fawn Rescue in Loomis. They quickly responded to take her in and save her life. Nicholas is asking Book of Dreams readers help to provide additional fencing to accommodate the growing numbers of orphans each year and better protect all fawns from predators.
Diane Nicholas checks on an orphaned fawn she calls Anna, who was unable to stand or lift her head when animal control called Kindred Spirits Fawn Rescue in Loomis. They quickly responded to take her in and save her life. Nicholas is asking Book of Dreams readers help to provide additional fencing to accommodate the growing numbers of orphans each year and better protect all fawns from predators. lsterling@sacbee.com

Anna was in bad shape. Discovered by an Auburn family on the front porch of their home, the tiny, orphaned fawn was disoriented and unable to stand or lift her fuzzy head.

Fortunately, animal control officials knew just who to call – Diane Nicholas, founder and president of Kindred Spirits Fawn Rescue.

Within minutes, Nicholas and a friend were en route to Auburn, where they scooped up the fawn, connected her to an IV hung from the rearview mirror and zipped back to Kindred Spirits’ headquarters in Loomis. After weeks of bottle feeding and therapy for head injuries, Anna has gone from frail to frolicking and is nearly ready for release back into the wild.

At Kindred Spirits, such comeback stories are commonplace. Each year, the nonprofit center rehabilitates as many as 150 orphaned fawns from Placer, Sacramento, Yolo and Nevada counties – and returns about 80 percent of those to the wild, typically on private ranches in the same region where they were found.

Leading the charge is Nicholas, a high-energy former interior designer who devotes most of her waking hours to fawns.

“I used to work with a lot of Northern California builders and saw firsthand how construction projects were displacing wildlife,” Nicholas said. “I’ve always been an animal lover, so that just tugged at my heart.”

After completing 400 hours of volunteer training to obtain a wildlife rescue permit from the state, Nicholas launched Kindred Spirits on her 5-acre, oak-studded property in 2006. The center includes a shady labyrinth of fenced pens topped with electric wire to deter mountain lions, isolation pens for fawns with potentially contagious diseases and a cottage that serves as an intensive care unit for the most critically injured orphans.

Why fawns?

“I think it’s because I had goats as a child,” Nicholas said, “and fawns are a lot like goats. They’re amazing animals. They have a sense of humor, they play games and they’re very gentle.”

Nicholas takes pains to ensure volunteers treat the fawns like wild animals, not pets. They are given human names, she said, only because she keeps records on all rehabilitated orphans and “I can’t remember numbers.”

Fawns wind up in her care through a variety of channels. California Highway Patrol officers sometimes call Nicholas after finding pregnant does that have been struck by a car and given birth before dying. Others are attacked by dogs or orphaned when their mothers are caught in barbed wire or die from disease.

Kindred Spirits’ annual budget of between $30,000 and $50,000 a year comes entirely from Nicholas and her husband, as well as donations. Expenses include veterinarian bills, alfalfa, grain, milk, fencing, antibiotics, and transportation to retrieve and release orphans.

Nicholas is asking Book of Dreams readers to help her provide additional fencing to accommodate growing numbers of orphans and better protect all fawns from predators.

“We had record numbers this year because with the drought, the mothers are being driven down from the foothills into more populated areas in search of water,” Nicholas said. “Unfortunately, that often ends in tragedy for the doe.”

And the fawns are left behind.

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