Rick Chaboudy grabbed two baby bottles filled with baby goat formula and walked outside.
He yelled, "Bottles!"
The bushes shifted, and two hungry fawns popped out.
The first one to approach Chaboudy, executive director of the Suncoast Animal League, is missing an eye after a potentially deadly encounter with a snake during Tropical Storm Debby. The league has named that fawn Dawn.
The other fawn could barely walk because of malnutrition when it was first rescued. That one's name is Daisy.
On Thursday, both trotted over to Chaboudy so that he could feed them. The two are among a number of fawns that have needed the league's help in the past few weeks.
Both humans and animals began feeling the effects of Tropical Storm Debby on June 24. The next day, Chaboudy's organization started getting calls about wandering wildlife.
He said 14 fawns were found during and immediately after the tropical storm. Usually, a mother deer protects her offspring from danger by hiding them. But when their concealed areas become flooded, the fawns' instinct is to find higher ground. The 14 fawns found in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby were all sighted near neighborhoods. One died from seizures, and 12 were reunited with their mothers.
The remaining one of the 14 was Dawn, rescued in Odessa. The 5-day-old fawn's left eye had been bitten by a water moccasin.
"It's amazing she survived," Chaboudy said.
Dawn was immediately taken to Ehrlich Animal Hospital in Tampa, where her eye was treated, said Dr. Farid Saleh, the veterinarian in Dawn's case, but it couldn't be saved.
For the most part, Dawn has since embraced her wild side.
"When Dawn runs," Chaboudy said, "you can't catch her."
The second fawn the league is caring for is Daisy, found hiding under a bush in the Crescent Oaks subdivision in East Lake on July 18 during heavy rains. Resident Barbara Schultz asked what to do after she found the 2-day-old fawn. The league recommended that she wait 10 hours to see whether the mother would return. When the time was up and the mother hadn't been seen, the league brought Daisy in to feed her.
"Daisy was wobbly from malnutrition," Chaboudy said. "She still had her umbilical cord."
While Dawn didn't trust Chaboudy immediately, there was no such problem with Daisy.
"She watched Dawn and immediately took the bottle," he said. "Dawn is a big sister and in some ways a mother to her."
Daisy has also begun grazing after watching Dawn do it.
In about three months, Chaboudy said, Daisy will be moved to Wildlife Haven, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center in Odessa. She will be introduced to other fawns and adult deer. The organization will eventually release them into the wild.
As for Dawn, her missing eye makes her an easy target for predators. Chaboudy said he does not know when she can move on from the Suncoast Animal League, but the league will find a place where she can be a permanent resident.
In the meantime, Dawn will continue to be cared for by Chaboudy. She gives him kisses and occasionally chews on his shirt.
"To see something that tiny and watch her will to survive, that's emotional," Chaboudy said. "That's why you get attached."
Diedra Rodriguez can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.