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Oh Deer # 2

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Oh Deer- #2

The What, Where, How and When
At Holly Lake we are blessed with many different species of wildlife. This column will focus on Odocoileus virginionus or the White-tailed Deer. Our white-tailed deer are primarily nocturnal but can be active at any time. As you ore probably aware, they move to different feeding areas along well-established trails. They then bed down at dawn, seeking cover in the yaupon.
One interesting fact about our deer is that they are good swimmers. I would be curious to know if any of you have seen them swim. The coat has hollow hair shafts, which fill with air, making the coat buoyant much like a life vest. It would be difficult for the deer to sink should it become exhausted while swimming.
As you travel down our roads I am sure you have noticed how graceful and agile the deer are. A deer can reach a top speed of 36 mph. However, it would rather run to nearby cover than run for any distance. Professional basketball teams would love to have a deer on their team as their vertical jump is 8 1/2 ft and horizontal leap is 30 ft.
The diet of the white-tailed deer consists of green plants (including aquatic ones in the summer), acorns and other nuts, twigs and buds of maple, dogwood, birch and many conifers. Their stomachs consist of four parts which allow them to feed on items that most mammals cannot eat. The deer obtain nutrients directly from its food, as well as those synthesized by microbes in its digestive system. A deer will eat 5 to 9 pounds of browse or mast per day and drinks water from rain, snow, dew, or a water source.
Deer are nervous creatures and when something bothers them they will send a signal by stamping their hooves and snorting. This alerts other deer of danger. When alarmed the deer flashes its namesake (the white tail) which communicates danger and helps the fawn follow its mother as they flee. A family group, which consists of a doe and her young, will remain together for nearly a year or sometimes longer. This group usually disbands just before the next birth but sometimes two sets of offspring will be present for short periods of time. The buck group is more social for most of the year and contains three to five individuals. The buck group constantly changes but disbands before the fall rut. This group has a dominant hierarchy. When a buck feels threatened is will lower its ears, stare and raise and lower its head. Attacks involve kicking, rearing and flailing with the forefeet. Both groups herd separately most of the year but in winter they may "yard up" or gather together in one big herd. A yard may contain as many as 150 of these creatures and the leadership is matriarchal.
Yarding provides protection from predators and keeps trails open through movement of these large groups. Predators include wolves, cougar and humans (hunters and automobiles).
Deer usually occupy the same home range year after year and will defend bedding sites. The white-tailed deer is less polygamous than other species of deer. When a buck begins losing the velvet on his antlers, you will know the rutting season is beginning. Often sparring (two deer trying to push each other backward) for dominance begins in the buck groups. The buck group will break up and the bucks begin following the does at a distance of 150 ft. The largest buck follows the doe's scent and stays closest to her.
A buck will create "buck rubs" or "scrapes" which are glandular secretions left on tree trunks. A rub can you some idea of the direction the buck was traveling when he made it. In many cases, a buck will rub the side of the tree from which he approaches. This tells you which direction he was traveling and also gives clues about the time of the day the travel route was used. A rub that faces a bedding area was probably made in the evening, since the buck was heading out to feed or to look for does after spending the day in his bed. And, of course, a rub that faces away from a bedding area was likely made in the morning as he came back to bed. Does visit these scrapes and urinate on them and the bucks then follow the trail of the does. After mating the doe returns to her herd until spring and if she is young will produce one fawn. As she gets older, she will have twins and sometimes triplets when food is abundant. The doe will leave her fawns to browse and will return to feed them only once or twice a day. The twins are usually separated for protection and are weaned at I to 2 1/2months. The fawns will stay with their mother into the winter and sometimes up to two years but generally the doe drives off the young of prior year before giving birth.
A white-tailed buck's first antlers are called a "spikehorn" (a single spike). By three years of age a buck will have 8 points but sometimes they have more or less. The number of points is influenced by the nutritional factor of their diet. Their age is not determined by the points but by the wear of their teeth.
And there you have it - some interesting facts about some interesting wildlife here at Holly Lake Ranch.
Ann Reynolds, Certified Master Naturalist

 

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