"Until one has loved an animal, part of one's soul is unawakened."
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to be invited along with a local Cub Scout pack that was visiting and hiking around the Valley Forge National Park. Two dozen boys, who had no intention of being left indoors, provided me and their other leaders with many teachable moments.
While hiking along the "Redoubt Trail" in the park we heard a commotion at the edge of the woods. As we moved closer, we heard shouts of "Can we keep him?" and "His mother abandoned him!" Apparently, the scouts had spotted a doe running nearby and playfully gave chase. What they didn't realize was that they were the "players" in one of nature's great dramas.
The mother doe was actually trying to attract the attention of the scouts as a way to divert their focus away from her fawn that was lying nearby. Mother deer are not unlike all mothers; they will go to great lengths to protect their young. In this case, the mother willingly put herself at risk in an attempt to draw potential predators away from her defenseless newborn fawn.
The scouts reasoned that the mother deer had run away from her fawn -- had abandoned it -- and now they needed to be the fawn's "saviors." While their reasoning was certainly well-meaning, it was severely flawed. After a short debate among ourselves, we leaders used this opportunity to explain nature to the scouts. We instructed the boys to carefully carry the fawn back to where they found him and to sanitize their hands with some of the goo that one of the den mothers had brought on the hike. Not long after we started hiking again we looked back down the trail, and sure enough, the fawn's mother had re-joined him and they were on their way in search of something to eat.