Doe, a deer

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A few days ago we had a deer wander through our front yard. Dan noticed her while she was browsing along the side of our driveway and called me down. I took a number of photos as she wandered slowly through, not far from the house, before finally heading off to the forest across the meadow.

I don’t see a lot of deer, but they’re definitely around: I see tracks regularly once the snow falls, and the dogs have made an art out of sniffing out piles of deer droppings to roll in. We’ve startled one or two while out on walks, but for the most part rarely encounter them during the day. The last time I recall seeing a lot of a daytime White-tail on our property was when Joe Buck came to visit a couple of Thanksgivings ago.

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Joe Buck was, of course, a buck; this one’s obviously a doe. Around this time of fall deer are starting to enter the annual rut, when the females go into estrus. Males will get so caught up in their pursuit of females that they’ll stop spending much time eating; besides the size of his antlers, Joe Buck was always foraging when we saw him so I knew he was a youngster. The females, however, go about business as usual. I’m not sure, therefore, if this female is old enough to mate. Does don’t reach sexual maturity until their second fall, but I don’t know if their behaviour changes much between their first and second year, the way it does with males.

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About 30 subspecies of White-tailed Deer are currently recognized. Ours is Odocoileus virginianus borealis, which ranges from western Ontario to eastern Canada and neighbouring states south to southern Ohio and New Jersey. Like most animals, the subspecies of the north are larger-bodied with smaller extremities. Deer in southern parts of the continent can be noticeably smaller, with larger ears and longer legs. Beyond that, there are some differences in the tone of body colouration or antler size… but for the most part they seem to be subtle and sometimes gradual and indistinctly defined to populations. The only really distinct populations seem to be fairly isolated, such as those on islands. The smallest are the White-tails of the Florida Keys, which only reach a height of 24 to 30 inches at the shoulder (compare to 4 feet for our northern deer).

I find that white throat patch interesting. I wonder if it serves a purpose? I started out checking the subspecies descriptions to see if it was perhaps present in some but not others, but doesn’t seem to be mentioned, as far as I can tell.

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She came right up to the garden and nosed around a bit but didn’t seem to find anything to her liking. When Joe Buck was coming around, he’d nibble on my hostas and some of the other plants there. Deer can often be a problem in gardens, but we haven’t had trouble with them here. Maybe I’m just not growing appealing plants.

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3 responses to “Doe, a deer

  1. Never thought about why a white-tailed deer was also white throated. Good question. Critter survival to me seems to be a matter of averages over time: left-handed batter vs. right-handed pitcher sort of thing. Doesn’t always work, but works often enough to make a difference in total won/lost (lives/dies).
    Could flashing a white tail temporarily disorient (I’m talking micro-seconds–but micro-seconds count) a pursuing predator, making it seem as if the deer is suddenly coming toward it?

  2. Pingback: Doe, a deer | Seabrooke Leckie « larrymatthews

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