I've often heard about natural instinct, particularly in wild animals, but it isn't all that often that I've had the opportunity to witness it first hand. On Friday, Cathy and I were riding MTB in Estabrook Woods on Two Rod Road, a miserably rocky and bumpy old colonial era cart path. I happened upon a small fawn (baby whitetail deer) who was on the trail headed in my direction ahead of me. He took a couple of steps and then literally, collapsed flat, legs splayed awkwardly and bizarre angles. The front legs dropped first and then the hind quarter sort of sank down to the ground, right there on the trail just in front of me.
Naturally, I feared the worst. With a baby this young, mama should be near but visibility was good in all directions as we were in a fern covered, coniferous/deciduous mixed forest with little undergrowth, save the ferns. We stopped near by not wanting to torment the poor little guy, whose eyes were open but who was making nary a movement. Every so often is nose would twitch just a bit, which proved he was still alive. Minds racing, we thought possibly his mother was dead and he was alone or possibly coyotes had been chasing him. Calm, soothing talk and pleading did no good so we decided to ride off well out of sight and then loop back and check on him. I was reluctant to take many pictures as it somehow seemed really morbid and wrong to be snapping pictures of an animal that was possibly in distress. It's amazing how a cute little helpless animal is cause for heart wrenching concern.
When we looped back through, he was gone. In retrospect, I'm sure he was just practicing natural instinct, when faced by danger he gets low and remains still. Had he been 10' to the side of the trail, in the ferns, we never would have seen him. In fact, I'll bet that is where mom was. Anyhow, we were very relieved to see he was off on his way.