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Deer friend:After 30 years in the building industry, Auburn-area woman is giving back by rehabilitating fawns

Gold Country Wildlife Rescue seeking donations to help pay for rising costs
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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With 30 years in the building industry, Diane Nicholas has seen the changes in the foothills and watched as houses replaced habitat for animals that once called it home. From her former El Dorado Hills home, she could see horses run free on 40 acres of rangeland. It’s now the Serrano development. Moving to the Auburn area, she watched as a development of 40 houses took over what was wildland behind her house. An interior designer, Nicholas said she couldn’t help feel guilty about the loss of open space for animal and bird habitat — and the displacement of all that wildlife by new development. “People have vineyards and they ask why the deer come into them,” Nicholas said. “Well, you’re in their backyard.” At a local Starbucks last year, Nicholas picked up a flier from Gold Country Wildlife Rescue — an organization of volunteers who work on a shoestring budget to rehabilitate injured and abandoned animals. That started Nicholas on a personal odyssey of training to care for animals, building shelters on her property to house them, and, ultimately, taking in fawns found in the semi-rural and urban areas that are encroaching on vanishing stretches of wildland in Placer County. Like the two-day-old female fawn found in Auburn with its umbilical cord still attached and coyotes circling. Or the fawn, passive and undernourished, turned in by a family after they “adopted” it, then couldn’t care for it, and found the animal growing more weak and tired. Or the fawn found in a pasture that had been attacked by a horse in a pasture, injuring its leg and jaw. With a surge in babies this year early in the birthing season, Nicholas now has 21 fawns housed on her property. Now, the Wildlife Rescue group is asking for financial support to help pay for care of the fawns until they can be released into the wild in October. Costs are about $6 a day for each fawn, with the price tag going up exponentially for veterinary care and medication, when it is needed. Bill Nicholas, Diane’s husband, said that he’s supportive of his wife’s efforts. “How can you not be,” Bill Nicholas said. “In a day or two, the fawns go from scared and disoriented to growing and happy. It’s unbelievable to see this happening in such a short period of time.” The Nicholases are chipping in with some of the costs now but Gold Country Wildlife Rescue is hoping an increase in donations for the local group’s efforts will be able to pay for care in a busier than expected season. And it’s not just deer that are being helped. One volunteer saved more than 200 birds last year. Members of the group also serve as educators, exposing students and adults to biological facts and ecological concepts of animals in the wild. In October, the young deer that Nicholas and Gold Country Wildlife Rescue are now caring for will be trucked in groups to large expanses of wildland owned by members near Auburn and released back into nature. Nicholas said that she’s hoping her example will spur people in the development community, as well as homeowners whose property has resulted in habitat loss, to come forward with donations as a way of paying back nature for living in the foothills. “This past weekend — we picked up three more fawns,” she said. “It’s amazing the number of calls for help we’re getting.” The telephone number for the rescue group is (530) 885-0862. The email address is goldcountrywildliferescue.org. The address is P.O. Box 4162, Auburn, 95604-4162. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at AuburnJournal.com.