‘There, almost hidden in the long grass, was a tiny golden fawn. Its head was caught in the wires and it was crying pitifully.’
Extract taken from The Baby Deer Rescue (Animal Adventure Club 1)
By Michelle Sloan
Published by Kelpies
Isla MacLeod drummed her feet on the floor of the Pittendooey Nature Reserve rangers’ lodge. It was nearly four o’clock: time for the Animal Adventure Club meeting. Three afternoons a week, Isla and her friends Buzz and Gracie came to the nature reserve after school to help the rangers and, best of all, look after animals! Buzz was here, but there was no sign of Gracie. Isla couldn’t wait for her to arrive so they could go out on patrol.
“Can you give me a hand with Spiky?” called Buzz. He was helping Lisa, the head ranger, to take care of a poorly hedgehog. “Lisa asked me to give him his ear drops.”
“Sure,” said Isla. “We can help Spiky while we wait for Gracie.” Isla jumped up and headed towards Buzz and Spiky at the far end of the room. “Oof!” she said, pinching her nose. “Spiky’s a bit smelly. Maybe we should have called him Stinky.”
“That’s why we keep him back here!” Buzz laughed, and opened Spiky’s cage.
There was a big pile of straw bundled in one corner. Isla put on a pair of thick gloves, then reached in and gently teased the straw away to reveal a large ball of sharp prickles.
“Hello, wee pal,” said Isla softly,
lifting the hedgehog out and placing him on a towel on the table. His prickles bristled.
“Try stroking his back,” said Buzz. “That should relax him.”
Sure enough, as Isla stroked him, the ball began to slowly unfurl. A tiny snuffly nose poked out, followed by a paw. Buzz leaned in and had a good look at the little hedgehog’s face.
“He’s looking much brighter,” he said. Spiky let out a small squeak.
“Cheeky thing,” said Buzz. He pulled a little bottle out of his pocket and tipped the drops into Spiky’s tiny ears.
“I don’t know how you manage to find his ears under all those prickles!” laughed Isla. “You’re going to be a brilliant vet one day.”
Buzz’s face went red, but he smiled.
“So, what’s the Animal Adventure Club doing this afternoon?” he asked.
“Never mind this afternoon — we’ve got enough jobs to last us a month!” said Isla. She grabbed her notebook out of her rucksack and read aloud:
“Whew!” said Buzz. “Sounds like hard work. Remember we’ve got to fill the bird feeders too. Speaking of feeding, I’m getting hungry and we haven’t even started yet! Do you think we can fit in a biscuit or two before we go?”
But Isla didn’t have time to answer, because a familiar voice outside shouted, “Buzz! Isla! Where are you?”
“We’re in the lodge,” Isla called back.
The door burst open. “Have you seen Lisa?” gasped a sweaty Gracie.
“She’s fixing some fencing by the boat sheds,” said Buzz, carefully placing Spiky back in his cage. “What’s up?”
“There’s no time to go and get her then,” said Gracie. “There’s an animal up by Craggy Woods in real danger! Bring Lisa’s cutters, Isla.”
Isla put them in her rucksack and they set off after Gracie, who led the way around Loch Dooey at a cracking pace. Squabbling black-headed gulls shrieked and swooped overhead. Even though Isla was in a hurry, she noticed some tiny and very fluffy chicks bobbing on the water near the gulls’ nesting area on the loch. She tried not to get distracted.
“What kind of animal is it?” asked Isla.
“I think it’s a baby deer,” puffed Gracie.
“You mean a fawn,” corrected Buzz.
“Fine, a fawn,” Gracie said impatiently.
“I didn’t have time to look properly. I was coming here on my bike when I heard screeches from the woods near the cycle path. I headed straight to the lodge to tell Lisa.”
They bolted round the loch, over Dooey Burn Bridge and into Craggy Woods. Gracie was a brilliant tracker and knew exactly which of the winding paths to take.
“Where now?” asked Isla.
“By the fence at the edge of the woods,” said Gracie. They could hear distant cries.
Isla slowed down as they drew closer, and signalled to the others to be quiet. Gracie pointed to the far end of the fence. There, almost hidden in the long grass, was a tiny golden fawn. Its head was caught in the wires and it was crying pitifully.
“Look, it’s bleeding,” said Gracie. “Poor thing.”
“We need to stay quiet so we don’t frighten it any more,” whispered Buzz. “Fawns can be scared of people.”
The fawn was panicking and struggling because its head was stuck.
“We have to free it,” Isla said quietly, “before it really hurts itself.”
“But how?” asked Gracie, her eyes wide.
Isla took off her rucksack and crept closer. She knelt beside the fawn, wondering what to do. Just stay still, she told herself. Maybe if I stay calm, the fawn will calm down too.
After what seemed like a long time, something extraordinary happened: the fawn stopped wailing and thrashing, and its breathing became steadier, almost in time with Isla’s.
“Pass me my rucksack please,” whispered Isla.
Carefully, Gracie handed it to her, trying not to make a sound.
Still moving slowly and calmly, Isla took out a pair of gloves and a small pair of cutters. Checking it was safe and that the fawn was calm, she made one swift snip in the wire fence.
Instantly, the baby deer pulled out its head. For a split second, the animal stared at Isla with its huge dark-brown eyes and blinked with long, feathery eyelashes. Its shiny black nose twitched, and then it turned and bounded into the depths of the forest.
“Wowza!” said Buzz.
“Double wowza!” said Gracie.
Isla watched after the beautiful baby animal, glad it was free.
“It was bleeding, wasn’t it?” said Gracie.
“I don’t think there was much blood,” added Buzz. “It should be fine.”
Gracie nodded. “I hope so.” She turned to Isla and helped her friend up. “Well done, Isla. You were so calm.”
Isla shrugged and smiled. “Thanks Gracie. It’s just as well you got to the lodge so fast. Any longer and the fawn might have been badly injured.”
“C’mon,” said Buzz. “Let’s get back and tell Lisa all about it. And we’ve still got to go through all the Animal Adventure Club tasks you have on your list, Isla.”
“And eat some biscuits, I bet?” she said cheekily, nudging Buzz.
“Too right!” he said. “There’s a packet of custard creams waiting for us, and I’m starving! Let’s go!”
The Baby Deer Rescue (Animal Adventure Club 1) is available now from Kelpies, priced at £5.99