Frieda Van der Ree has a unique visitor she loves to see on her property in Nanoose Bay.
A fawn, which upon first glance appears to have three ears, and its mother have visited Van der Ree’s property approximately twice a week since last spring.
“We see more of them grouped together this time of year, but most often I see just the two of them by themselves,” she said.
Van der Ree has kept a close eye on the pair, partially out of curiosity and also out of concern. While the fawn is “healthy and thriving” now, she told PQB News it previously had a terrible limp.
“I thought, ‘oh no, this is not boding well for the little thing.’ But it seems to have totally recovered from that. Hopefully it was just an injury,” she said.
Wildlife is no stranger to Van der Ree’s property, as raccoons, squirrels and birds are always around. She said that at least three or four deer lay in her yard everyday, on a bluff that overlooks the road.
“They love to lay there and look down on the road so they can have a good view of dogs coming by.”
As for the possibility of a third ear, experts would have to examine the animal up close.
An animal care technician at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRC), Megan Buemann, could not recall if a deer with a mutation such as a third ear has ever been brought to the centre. She said it would be a rare find.
The centre doesn’t take in adult deer, said Buemann, as they tend not to survive rehabilitation, citing that 90 per cent don’t make it due to stress.
“But when they’re fawns and have their spots, they do tend to have a greater chance of making it through,” she said.
In those cases, the fawns are transferred to a wildlife rescue hospital that’s part of the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society in Courtenay, where Buemann said they’re setup to accept wildlife such as raccoons and deer.
According to Buemann, she’s aware of a deer and horse mutation where teeth have been found inside their ears, but has not heard of a third ear sighting on Vancouver Island.
Riddell said he forwarded a photo of the fawn to a biologist for further inspection. According to Riddell, the biologist also agrees that it is highly likely to be a healed injury after the ear was split down the middle, and not a birth defect. He said the only certain way to determine if this was a mutation or healed injury would be through a physical examination of the fawn. However, doing so would put the deer through a lot of stress, which could also be harmful.
“We likely wouldn’t do this unless the deer was suffering in some fashion. But, this deer looks good and healthy,” said Riddell.