Eleven states have chosen the White-tailed Deer as their state animal including Illinois. Everyone loves Bambi and his majestic father.
It was a magical moment when I saw my first “wild” deer when on a family vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park. She showed her head, taking a break from grazing in the cool, quiet meadow, spotlit by the slowly setting sun to view our car of gawking suburbanites. Sometimes we’d spy a deer through the forest trees causing my father to quickly brake and slide as far to the side of the narrow mountain road as possible so we could watch safely and he could preserve our moment on Kodachrome.
Never did I imagine that I would live in one of the largest cites in the United States and be able to enrich my life with frequent observations of “wild” deer. Chicago, in addition to all the cultural richness, is also home to expanses of Forest Preserve located inside the city and surrounding suburbs. And White-tailed Deer is far from endangered in this urban, civilized habitat. There are more deer in the Chicago-land area than in the 1800’s primarily due to the extirpation of wolves and cougars. Now their only predators are coyotes and collisions with vehicles.
Chicago-land Forest Preserves (Cook County Forest Preserve) are also home to meandering bicycling and horse paths, which I travel as often as possible. My children have no basis to appreciate how rare an experience this truly is for most suburban and urban residents in the U.S. They most surely think that anyone can easily bicycle to and through a forest whenever one has such a desire.
I use the paths to lead me to specific places where I know I can find doe in any season of the year. I have learned where to wander to find buck in October as they tend to migrate from one place to another. They allow us to usually observe them casually from distances no closer than fifteen feet and in that sense remain wild animals; but they are civilized to be unfazed at this distance and will continue their grazing with careful, but relaxed attention to their intruding observers.
What wonderous times I have had even when they choose to eat my prized lilies; my hostas and yews are “ok” treats for them as long as they allow me to gaze while they graze. I learned several summers ago that they were friends of Tigger, our cat. One barked at me to warn me to leave Tigger alone when I came out onto our front sidewalk one late afternoon. We live directly across a one lane street from a branch of the CCFD.