Born Free: Stories from the heart
Steamboat Springs — You can find many of Born Free’s most heartwarming stories on the center’s website — wildlife-rehabilitation.com — under the tab “Stories From the Heart.”
There you can read about Bee, a hummingbird who came to the wildlife center after the nest she was in blew off its perch on a satellite dish, or the story of Sailor, a golden eagle found dehydrated near Maybell.
There are also lessons to be learned like the story of Angelina, a deer fawn that came to Born Free after being picked up by a woman in the backcountry. Bye advised the woman to take the animal back to where she found it, but the woman did not follow the advice and took the animal home to play with her children and dogs.
“It’s a little frustrating because people have good intentions when they find a fawn in the wild, but in most cases, the mom is somewhere close and watching,” Bye said. “Deer will leave their babies for up to three hours, but they are always in contact. If the animal is not injured, the best thing is to leave them where they are.”
This was the case with one of Tracy’s favorite stories. Flag was a fawn that was picked up by a hiker who thought the animal had been abandoned by its mother.The hiker took the fawn to town and put the animal in her backyard where it was attacked by dogs.
By the time Bye got involved, the fawn had to be treated by local veterinarians for severe bites on the neck and abdomen. She arrived at Born Free and it took a year for the little fawn to recover.
“She overcame infection, shock and some digestive problems,” Bye says on her website. “To this day, when I recall her will to survive, it gives me goose bumps. She trusted in me when she should have hated me. She loved me when she should have been loving her own mom. Flag became a part of my soul. If ever there are soulmates, I often feel she is mine.”
Bye “soft” released Flag behind her home, but the deer kept coming back, visiting with family pets and becoming way too comfortable with humans. Two other fawns named Johnny and Olivia joined Flag, and Bye was concerned about the animals’ wellbeing, so she decided to load the animals in a trailer to take them to a refuge near Meeker — a place with no homes, and more importantly, no people.
Bye fought back the tears as she released the animals, told them farewell and drove away in her truck. She had formed a special bond with the animals — one that would last forever if she had let it. But her main goal was to return the animals to the wild where they could live out their days with little to no human contact.
But to her surprise it wasn’t the last time she saw Flag, Johnny and Olivia.
Four years later, as she was covering up the pumpkins in her yard, she noticed a good-sized heard of elk in the pasture behind her house. She turned on the flood lights and to her surprise saw a deer that looked just like Flag.
“All the deer started moving up the hill except one,” Bye recalls. “She stood and stared at me with quiet ease. As I looked at her closely, I recognized her unusually large ears and her heart-shaped nose. ‘Flagaroo, is that you?’ I called to her. She came closer and looked at me. I began to cry and had to hold myself back from running up to her and hugging her. She allowed my cat to rub her legs, and she touched noses with my dog. Be still my heart …. I could not believe I was seeing her again and knowing that she was okay. Her mate called to her from the hillside and off she went. She came back many times that fall.”
The reunion reinforced the reason Bye wanted to open Born Free and made her feel good about what she is doing. Chances are that once she lets an animal walk or run away, or opens the door of a kennel to watch a golden eagle or a hawk take flight, she will never see them again. They will hear the call of the wild, and they will return to it — and that’s OK with Bye.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A paper sign taped to the window of the Sears Hometown Store in Central Park Plaza marks the end of the road for the business’ 46-year-run in Steamboat Springs.