The nose knows

The deer were frisky in the backyard this morning, the younger ones racing around like little kids.  Then suddenly all the action stopped, and all (except one) looked in one direction.

The left-over seed heads in the wildflower garden get chomped by the deer at this time of year.

The left-over seed heads in the wildflower garden get chomped by the deer at this time of year.  I never realized there was so much variation in coat color of deer in the winter.  The doe in the left back of the group is quite dark.

And this is apparently what they were staring at, or anticipating the arrival of.

He arrived a few minutes after the does had departed.  Did they hear him, or see him, or smell him???

He arrived a few minutes after the does had departed. Did they hear him, or see him, or smell him???

And this is what the buck did for the next few minutes.

The smell of the does gives him clues about their reproductive status.

He’s not grazing, he’s following a scent trail.  The smell of the does gives him clues about their reproductive status.

His head moves along the path the does took, then he suddenly moves it up and stands with his mouth open and tongue moving in and out.

His head moved along the path the does took, then he suddenly moved it upward and stood with his mouth open and tongue moving in and out.

Specialized glands on the lower part of the doe’s leg (tarsal glands) give off a particular scent when the doe is in heat, indicating when will be receptive to the male.

Tasting the air molecules?

Tasting the odor molecules?  A specialized (vomeronasal) organ located in the roof of the mouth detects the tarsal scent of the does.  Bucks use their tongue to capture and press those scents into the organ, which passes the information on to the brain via nerves.

He wandered off in their direction a few minutes later, so I assume they didn’t smell quite right, or he would have been in a bigger hurry to catch them.

6 thoughts on “The nose knows

  1. I continue to be amazed at all of the wildlife you have in your back yard. I enjoyed the photos and the explanation of what was going on. I suspect that few of us knew that the male deer opens his mouth to detect certain scents. Wow. Maybe he needs to try Match.com.

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