Sad news

January 23, 2010

in Koko

We are very sorry to report that KoKo, our only black fallow buck, died on Friday, January 8, 2010.

In December we noticed that he was drooling after eating and one of his cheeks was swollen. Nothing else seemed out of the ordinary. He was eating hay, treats and we had observed him up on his hind feed reaching for some tender cedar bits. The other deer were not bullying him or altering their behaviour towards him in any way as we had observed when George had an injured leg several years ago.

Our vet, Dr. Brian Willows of Thousand Islands Veterinary Services, examined KoKo on December 29, 2009. An abscessed tooth was suspected or perhaps “lumpy jaw”. We could have tranquilized him to examine the mouth, but that procedure is not without danger especially in very cold weather. So, we began to give him antibiotics twice daily by feeding him a paste embedded in an apple and this was to be given for 14 days. If nothing changed, we would then consider tranquilizing. We noticed some weight loss but nothing extreme and thought it was related to the meds.

On Friday morning Allan fed KoKo his meds and watched him eat a bit of hay and then disappear into the woods. He seemed to be steady on his feet but oddly vocalized a bit making some grunts as he left the feeding area. In the afternoon there was no sign of him. Allan searched for over an hour and found him in a cedar grove. There were no signs of trauma. His front legs were still folded. It appears that he had collapsed and died suddenly trying to get up.

Dr. Willows was just as surprised as we were about KoKo’s sudden death. We took the body to the Animal Health Lab at the University of Guelph in Kemptville for a post mortem examination.The preliminary report from the Lab indicates he was suffering from chronic mandibular osteomyelitis, tooth abscess and emaciation. The infection of his mouth had moved into the jaw and bones and was a chronic condition. Although we observed him eating and drinking, he was unable to chew his feed and was unable to create fat stores. This resulted in mild mass atrophy. The weight loss was hard to notice because of the thickness of his winter coat.

As someone has suggested, wild animals often keep their weakness hidden to protect them from predators or loss of status, and it appears that KoKo was a master at this. Or else, he was just as unaware of the seriousness of his plight as we were. In any event, we take some comfort that he did not suffer for very long, if at all.

The only good news is there appears to be no infectious disease which would harm the other members of the herd who are doing well. A sample of his brain tissue was sent for testing to ensure there was no rabies or chronic wasting disease.

We asked the Lab to determine KoKo’s age and it was 10 years, about 2 years older than we thought. As you know we had no records of any of the deer rescued from the farm where they were born. When Wendy and Don bought the whole herd in 2005, KoKo had a large abscess on his flank. The farmer recommended euthanization, a recommendation that was not followed. Also earlier this year, he caught his antlers on the fence and was rescued once again.

He was a true survivor, well-loved by all who visited him. His dark coat made him easy for kids to identify and he trusted people enough to eat from their hands.

We miss him very much and wish we could have understood how ill he was. The knowledge we have gained from his loss will help us to keep his brothers healthy and strong.


Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

December 23, 2009

in Koko

KoKo’s Christmas wish

May your antlers never be entangled in a fence
May your brothers always be there beside you
May your path be one of peace and free of ice
May your blessings be many

May your hay always be sweet


Perfect resolution

August 25, 2009

in Koko

Broken piece from left antler

This photo (taken August 23, 2009) shows KoKo doing quite well, still with shreds of velvet at the base of his antlers. If you look closely, you’ll see that his left antler is missing its tip. During the combined efforts of Allan and KoKo to escape from the fence, the “hook” must have been weakened. Yesterday morning, Allan found it in the place where KoKo likes to chill out. Here’s a photo of that piece, too.

We had been considering ways to try to cut off the “hook” so that KoKo couldn’t hook himself on to anything, but once again, nature takes care.


Close Encounter

August 22, 2009

in Koko

Yesterday afternoon, Allan and I decided to take a walk inside the enclosure for no particular reason (or so we thought).

In the morning, Allan had noticed that Murph had lost most of his velvet and we wondered if there were others in the same state. From observation in the years past, all the bucks seem to lose their velvet within one week towards the end of August.

We came upon KoKo behaving oddly near the fence in the east marsh area and quickly realized that one of his oddly curved spellers (points) of his antler was caught on the fence. He was twisting and bucking in all directions and could not get loose. The curved point had effectively become a hook.

The possibility that he might break his neck occurred to both of us. A buck at the Scotland Road farm had been found dead after having caught his antler in fencing, but we had never seen our bucks engage with the fencing at the Florida site other than to stick their noses through for apples when visitors come.

Allan came to KoKo’s rescue by quickly getting outside the fence, waiting for a moment when KoKo stopped fighting/twisting, and then pulling the antler “hook” through the fence, then down, then pushing it away. KoKo ran off and we left him to calm down. The area near the fence where he was caught was beaten down from grass to mud. It was obvious that KoKo had been attached to the fence for some time.

This morning Allan saw the buck being somewhat shy and standoffish, but alive and well.

Lessons for KoKo: Adapt to the shape of this year’s antlers and avoid any close encounters with the fence.

Lessons for Deer keepers: During the period when the bucks shed velvet from their antlers, increase number of daily fence-line inspections. Always take gloves and wire cutters. Be aware of and respond to subtle messages, quietly transmitted. They may have a purpose.


May 24th Fundraiser

May 28, 2009

in Koko

Monique Cloutier, board member, feeds KoKo

May 24, 2009 was the “Day in the Country” created and produced by Wendy Workman to raise funds for the Reserve. Three local practitioners offered their services in tarot card reading, reiki, chakra reading, etc. to participants who also enjoyed great weather, a delicious lunch and a visit with the deer. Over $700 was raised!

Thanks to Wendy, Cheryl, Erin (http://www.self-insights.com)
and Susie and to everyone who attended.


Winter mornings — cold temperatures and lots of snow… this is the pattern of this month at the Reserve. Fortunately we have a dedicated deer keeper in Allan Park who shows up every morning at daybreak to check on the bucks, make sure their water is ice-free, feed them hay, and make sure no animal is missing or injured. Each animal gets plenty of fresh hay because it is spread out and available to all.

In the lower picture you can see KoKo enjoying the mineral lick that provides the bucks with essential vitamins and minerals and the blue salt lick is in the foreground.

The biggest natural hazard seems to be ice. Gulliver was limping earlier this week probably from a fall but in a day or two he was back to normal.

{ 1 comment }

KoKo gets a visit

August 25, 2008

in Koko

On Sunday, August 24, KoKo got a return visit from one of his biggest fans, MK. She first met KoKo last year when she was 4 years old and hasn’t forgotten him, often reminding her Pappy about him and wondering how he might feel if someone laughed at him for being different than the rest of the herd. MK also helped feed the deer apples and corn, pumped water for them and was named “volunteer of the day”.


KoKo loves apples

February 7, 2008

in Koko

Janet Drew and her husband, Ron Heidebrecht, visited the Reserve on Tuesday after yoga class and Janet has sent us this great picture of KoKo enjoying a tasty bit of apple. All the deer were looking a bit bedraggled, damp from foggy, wet winter air, but KoKo managed to convey his satisfaction with fresh hay and crisp apples. Thanks, Janet, great photo.


When people visit the Reserve, they always express surprise that we can identify the individual deer. Aside from KoKo who is easy to recognize given his chocolate colour, at first sight the rest of the deer look very alike.

Having worked with the bucks for over 19 months, we know that each one is quite different and unique in both appearance and personality.

Here’s how we tell them apart.

Max, the leader, is a large deer with one of the largest sets of antlers and a golden colour especially on his head and back of neck. He often stands in the middle of the herd, but never gets challenged by other bucks. (A challenge is when a deer lowers his head and antlers and moves towards another in a determined way. Sometimes the deer will tilt his head and show one eye to the other deer. )

Dandy, is usually the second in command. He is probably the largest deer in body size but his antlers don’t have the wide palmation of the other large deer. He is very calm.

Mike is next in herd hierarchy but sometimes he vies with Dandy to gain status to second. He looks quite a bit like Max and has large antlers. However, his right brow antler is bent over his right eye in an odd way caused by a collision with a barricade when the deer were being moved to Florida from Scotland Road in May last year. Mike is very social towards people. We hope his antlers return to normal this year.

Gulliver is another large deer with the largest palmation of antlers. He seems to be the big brother of Moki (one of our youngest and smallest) who is a constant companion. Gulliver will often let Moki “play fight/challenge” with him but never exerts the full power he could if the fight were for real. Gulliver likes to chase smaller deer at feeding time, doing his best to get all the food for himself, but he never challenges a deer that is larger than himself.

Murph is a large deer with exceptionally long antlers with good palmation and many spellers (or branches). He has a dark coat, but not quite as dark as KoKo. He is very independent and spends time away from the herd on his own. He is not that interested in people…can take or leave ‘em.

Bash is a large light-coloured deer with large antlers that have many spellers and very straight brow antlers. He, too, is somewhat independent and will leave the herd to go on his own. He likes to bully Buddy who is also light-coloured. Bash used to be very frightened of people, but he is becoming very social these days.

Ty has a compact body, a muddy brown colour and very wide palmated antlers with many spellers. Like Bash, he was very fearful of people when we first started working with the herd, now he doesn’t seem too worried by us. He never challenges large deer for food or water, but bullies all the other deer the same size or smaller than him.

Buddy is a medium-sized light coloured deer. His brow antlers turn inward instead of straight ahead which gives him a slightly cock-eyed, cute appearance. His personality is carefree and he’s very curious about people and what they are doing whether it be building a shelter, digging or hauling water. He will run away from food to get a good view of human beings at work.

EGee is a medium-sized deer with shorter palmated antlers, few spellers and long straight brow antlers. He has a dark brown winter coat with a splash of white on his right side where he was injured last winter. He is very social and calm and only occasionally will he bully George or KoKo at feeding time to get in the best position.

George looks like the other medium-sized deer in appearance except for his antlers this year which have little or no palmation. Our theory is that this odd antler formation was caused by the anti-inflammatory medication he was given last winter after suffering a “shoulder” injury. We hope that his antlers return to normal this year. George is definitely the most social of the deer and he can be a nuisance if you are working inside the fence as he has no fear of people and will invade human space quite easily.

KoKo is our most recognizable deer because he is very dark in colour and even in summer he has very faint “spots” on his chocolate-coloured back. He has a compact, you might say round body and he is very social and calm. He is the one most likely to be hanging out in the shelter of the woods rather than the person-made shelter attached to the barn. He seems to like to hang out with Ty or Buddy.

Moki is one of our youngest at 3 years of age. His antlers are palmated but smaller than all the other deer (except for Spike). His right brow antler bends to the right and this winter he lost the top of his left ear as a result of a tussle with Spike towards the end of the rut.

Spike is the other 3 year old with antlers similar to those of Moki. He is the only deer in our herd with a brown tail which makes him a “menil” fallow deer. Spike is social and curious and likes to hang out with George and fight with Moki.


Volunteer of the Month

September 5, 2007

in Koko,Murph

M.S. (11) is one of our youngest volunteers. She loves to chop up apples and carrots for the deer and is great at pumping water into their trough. She was one of the first to hand feed KoKo in late August and now KoKo is high on her list of favourites, along with her beloved deer, Murph, who’s in the background of this photo.