FAIR OAKS RANCH — Ah, spring. Cue images of dewy-eyed fawns curled among the buttercups, tiny bunnies frolicking through the grass, and birds stuffing nests for their hatchlings.
For the city’s Wildlife Education Committee, the season means something else: instruction and learning.
Bruce Nicholson, the organization’s head, said aside from posting roadway signs and disseminating information on the town’s website, the group holds meetings to enlighten residents on how to deal with all local wildlife, be it cuddly, creepy or crawly.
Especially those baby deer.
“We get a lot of questions about what to do about unattended fawns,” Nicholson said. “The mothers leave the fawns by themselves for 12 hours, which makes people nervous, but most of (the) time nature takes care of it and the doe returns to her fawn. Moving the fawn can be a major problem. We also put out information about poisonous snakes, which start appearing as it gets warmer.”
With recent reported sightings of a bobcat or a mountain lion and feral hogs, Nicholson said the committee’s role is to teach folks about the do’s and don’ts when encountering the wild kingdom.
“We get a lot of calls about large cats or trapping animals, but that’s not our job and not in our control,” Nicholson said. “Our job is to let people know what steps to take. The first step if someone has an issue is to call the police.”
Steve Lightfoot of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department said humans should only observe from a safe distance and not touch.
“People can always go to our website for advice, but in a nutshell leave them alone,” Lightfoot said. “Mom always knows where her baby fawn is and will come back for it. She’s usually close enough so she can hear it if he calls.”
Residents have had a multitude of run-ins with the fauna around them.
“I’ve seen a hawk grab a snake in my backyard,” said Mona Gutierrez. “On a run, I’ve seen a deer playing with a dog through a fence. They were running from end to end having a blast. We’ve seen a small porcupine cross our driveway, climb up a tree a bit, come back down and then disappear into our neighbor’s yard.”
She added, “I’ve worried about getting home before dark to avoid hitting any deer on the interstate, only to have two different collisions with deer in my own neighborhood, on my street. Despite the vehicle damage, we love the wildlife around us. Except the skunks!”
Al Ludlum said he once spent an afternoon watching a large insect sample a sweet treat.
“Last year, we had a praying mantis hanging upside down on our hummingbird feeder,” Ludlum said. “It was fun to watch him wait patiently for a drop of nectar to fall.”
Mary Jaster enjoys feathered Hill Country visitors.
“I have a birdhouse in my yard and every spring titmice or chickadees raise a clutch of babies,” Jaster said. “Last year, wrens raised a family in my barbecue mitt, which was hanging on a hook on the patio.”
Longtime resident Paul Gonzalez noted he recently eyeballed a U.S. icon.
“We have lived in Fair Oaks Ranch 20 years and we have almost seen it all,” Gonzalez said. “We have seen a crazy emu chasing people, bobcats, snakes, deer, porcupines, raccoons, turkey, hawks, Dall sheep and mountain-lion sightings, but, hands down, the most beautiful thing yet was about four weeks ago. My wife spotted a huge bird on the top of a large oak tree on the back of our property. I had a good pair of binoculars, and to my surprise, it was an American bald eagle. We’ve never seen one here before! We thought it was awesome.”
Sometimes, residents see the cruel rather than the cute side of nature.
“I did have a snake eat a toad in my backyard last year,” said Mary Claire Linnemann. “It was fascinating. It took him several hours to eat the whole thing.”
“A few years ago on a foggy morning, while I was driving the kids to school on Rolling Acres (Trail), our path was suddenly blocked by two huge Axis bucks who came crashing out of the brush with antlers locked,” said Kristi Hulce. “They fought for several minutes. … It was like an episode of National Geographic live in person.”
For more, visit the Wildlife Education Committee’s website at www.fairoaksranchtx.org/160/Wildlife-Education or tpwd.texas.gov.