Tale of the tail

I always check the bird feeders early each morning for new arrivals.  Yesterday, I almost missed the deer standing beneath the finch feeder because it blended right into the vegetation so well.

White-tailed deer eating bird seed

Light makes such a difference in the color of deer fur, and this dim morning light mutes their color so deer can almost hide in plain sight, if they remain immobile.

Deer are usually more red-brown in the summer and gray brown in the winter. The basis for the seasonal color change is the structure of the hair coat.  The hair of the deer fur is pigmented and solid in the summer; in the winter deer fur is bilayered with a hollow outer hair covering a dense underfur — all of which provides excellent insulation for cold weather, sort of like a down coat.  Summer deer look sleek wth their thinner hair coat; winter deer look almost shaggy, as the hair coat sticks up in places where hair is fluffed out for insulation or has been disturbed by walking through vegetation.

shaggy winter coat of White-tailed deer

However, camouflage goes out the window when deer raise their tail to reveal a striking white flag.  They do this when alarmed, and wave that flag as they bound away, sending a signal to other deer in the vicinity, and to their fawns, in particular, to leave — quickly.

White-tailed deer raising its white flag

I never noticed what a large fluffy mass that tail is.  It’s quite attractive, and certainly a striking signal.

3 thoughts on “Tale of the tail

  1. Ah, I’ve always wondered why the deer would wave the white tail (that’s usually the part of the deer anatomy that I see most often). Thanks for the moment of illumination, Sue

  2. You’re welcome. It seems counter-intuitive to call attention to yourself with a white flag, but they are so speedy and agile, they probably have no trouble escaping.

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