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Mama Deer, Although Handicapped, Cares for Fawns at Space Institute

Mama Deer, handicapped early in life, not only has overcome the loss of two front hooves and birthed several fawns but also has adopted a few other babies while roaming the campus of The University of Tennessee Space Institute.

Because of the short front legs, Mama Deer has a huge hump above one shoulder and runs at an awkward gait. One of her legs is severed just above the hoof; the other is even shorter.

“She was here when I came to work at UTSI eight years ago,” says Billy Davis of Winchester, who while helping to keep the campus spic and span, keeps an eye out for Mama Deer.

“She’s been here quite a while,” adds Supervisor Robert Parson of Hillsboro. “Frances Bauer (former operator of UTSI’s print shop) called me one morning concerned about the injured deer. I called a game warden who came out to look for the doe. I thought he might put her down. She apparently had been shot.

But he couldn’t find her.” Parsons says Mama Deer has a baby of her own every year, but he also frequently sees her caring for “three or four other fawns.”

Some have said this is because she can’t out-run the little ones, but she actually moves pretty fast,” Parsons said. “I think she wants to take care of the other fawns.”

He thinks Mama Deer’s feet were shot off, and that this also is what caused a young buck to lose his left back leg last year. Parsons reported that casualty to a game warden, too, after the youngster showed up with its injured limb barely in tact. Soon afterwards, the little buck lost the damaged limb and was scampering along with other wildlife on the lakeside campus.

Fascinated by the pluck of the injured animals, Jim Hornkohl of Tullahoma, a research associate, shot a few pictures of the deer going about their business near high tech laboratories and graduate-level classrooms, munching grass and playing under the trees.