Deer are behaving differently this year: smarter, choosier and more willing to risk life and hoof for forbidden shoots and flavorful leaves — namely anything I’ve planted that is cherished and/or fruit bearing. While not officially confirmed (I smell a cover-up), I believe the deer on Vashon to be a mutant strain of antlered space aliens sent here to observe our ways and test our mettle.
First encounter: Two weeks ago, my neighbor Tim called to say he saw a deer in my fenced orchard. I could barely find time to say thank you and goodbye before hanging up the phone and charging out the door to the orchard. After fumbling with the gate, I was in, and low and behold a doe, a deer, a female deer was staring right back at me, undaunted. Then, she took about ten quick steps and hopped over my eight-foot fence with the ease of stepping over a shoestring. On the other side, she stopped to grab a couple bites of tender blackberry shoots for good measure and meandered just to make a point. I later discovered the doe had gained access by wedging her way between the gate and fence, stretching a bungee cord to its tearing point. Yep, this deer wasn’t from around these parts.
No Sweet cherries this year
Second encounter: Fence repaired and days later, I sensed something was amiss again when I opened the gate to the orchard. I turned slowly to witness the horror and devastation, and begin whimpering like a kid on roller skates with skinned knees and bruised ego. My row of young cherry trees looked like poodle-cut topiary, the branches munched bare with a few tufts of leaves on top. The doe, still in the orchard, bounded out of the woods at full speed with Boz and Gracie in hot pursuit. Since fence jumping seemed passe (done on her last visit), she opted to blast through my deer fence like it was wet tissue paper.
After scouring the perimeter, I discovered a towering cottonwood tree had dropped a large branch and brought down a section of fence in the woods. Was it merely gravity at work or…did the mutant deer used some kind of laser to bring it down. After whining to a couple friends who would understand my angst, I fixed the fence, and cursed the antlered aliens (much like Charlton Heston did in Planet of the Apes, shaking his fist to the sky and damning those bossy primates, that is the apes, not us.)
2011, a non-vintage year
Third encounter: Several days later I discovered new damage as deer had stripped most of the leaves from my 15 grape vines–all of which were nicely trellised, a veritable vertical smorgasbord of budded delights. Rose tips rounded out their late night gorging, with a few plums trees serving as digestifs. Again, the deer had determined the new weakest link in my fence and wedged through a fence section I had spliced, securely I thought. I can just see them now in their night vision goggles casing the perimeter, looking for flaws in my wall of defense. I went back to the house to stew, steam and pout, and possibly burn a Bambi DVD and shop online for venison.)
One week later, my spirits revisiting a kinder, gentler state of being, I noticed my apple trees (above) looked strange. Not again! Not again! Not again! The fourth time was not a charm. I was ready to move back to a cramped condo in the city and raise tomatoes in pots on my deck.
Mutant deer are wily alright. Yep, the hungry herbivores fell back on an old trick and activated their stratospheric wind machine, which brought down a very large Madrona branch. Of course it fell perfectly perpendicular to the fence, flattening it in seconds.
While I don’t have any photographs of the mutant deer in their alien form, I did make a sketch of one when caught one off guard. Beware of laser tipped antler points and spiraling hypnotic eyes. Stare too long, and they can telepathically will you to open the gates to your most succulent gardens and orchards. (Not to worry, the National Security Agency has been alerted.)