Into the Wild
● Published by Style
Photos by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.
Sierra and Hope, two of the injured fawns at Kindred Spirits Fawn Rescue, a non-profit organization in Loomis, circle one another in slow, cautious closeness.
One has neurological damage, while the other is too humanized to survive in the wild. Today they are friends, but when the time comes for them to reenter the wild, their companionship will be their best and only chance for survival.
Like all of the fawns in residence at Kindred Spirits – one a mere three hours old, others just weeks in this world – Sierra and Hope are cautionary tales of what can happen to injured, orphaned or displaced wildlife. Particularly vulnerable to human interference are deer, a grazing herd species that often fall prey to speeding cars, wrought iron fencing, dog attacks, construction, rifles and related hazards.
No one knows this better than founder and president of Kindred Spirits, Diane Nicholas, who, two years ago, established the organization that she and her husband, Bill, largely fund (with the occasional donation) and seem destined to lead. Her circuitous path to animal rehabber began at UC Davis, where she was a veterinarian hopeful. She then segued into interior design, a career she was enormously successful at for a number of years, directing interiors for big production property builders.
But as Nicholas watched land being swallowed up, she worried for area wildlife and, on a volunteer basis, learned the intricacies of animal rehabilitation. “I knew I had to do something to mitigate the displacement of these animals; to do some good, and to try and change the mindset that allows it to happen,” Nicholas explains. Eventually she channeled her feelings into action, giving up her lucrative design career to take up the mantle for an animal many regard as a nuisance.
It’s this perception that, in addition to rescuing, rehabbing and releasing fawns, prompts Nicholas to use Kindred Spirits as a platform to reeducate the public about deer – skilled brush-cutters, which help eliminate undergrowth that serve as tinder for fires while clearing ground for new growth to sprout. As such, she works with both schools and the community, forming partnerships with area ranchers that allow Kindred Spirits to release fawns onto private lands with extensive acreage.
Rescue operations run day and night throughout Placer, Yolo and Sacramento Counties. Nicholas works in concert with local vets to rehab an average of 80 fawns per year in accordance with the California Department of Fish and Game regulations. She conducts bottle feedings every two hours, doctors fawns in the field, seeks new treatment methods and cleans and reorganizes facilities, which include a “fawn cottage” and a series of pens arranged to reintroduce fawns to the herd concept, thereby increasing their chances of survival upon release.
Through the process of fawn rescue, Nicholas continues to embrace the learning curve, professionally and personally. “I’ve learned to trust your instincts,” she says of the experience. “There’s no limit to what you can do.” •
To make a donation, report an injured/orphaned fawn or for more information, visit kindredspiritsfawnrescue.org.