Double trouble

The deer really like my backyard:  they eat my plants, they bed down in the wildflower garden leaving big depressions in the vegetation, they rest right under the bird feeder, and believe it or not, the half-grown fawns chase the foxes right out of the yard.  But I enjoy watching them parade through, so I just keep replanting the garden.

white-tailed fawns-

Make yourself comfortable…

white-tailed fawn-

By all means, help yourself to the garden perennials. This shrub rose may not recover, but oh well…

white-tailed fawns-

Yes, please do eat the buckthorn. I didn’t want that to spread in the backyard.

And where do these two learn where the best places to forage are?

white-tailed doe

From mom and dad, of course.

white-tailed buck-

This one has developed a taste for hostas.

Dashing through the woods

I’ll get to the “dashing” part next, but first an explanation of what (or who) is doing the dashing.  The “Rut” is in full swing, and that means White-tailed bucks are tracking and chasing does through the woods, occasionally at high speed.  A pair flashed by my porch window as I was sipping morning coffee, and paused just briefly in the neighbor’s yard while a doe snatched a few bites of greenery.

white-tailed deer

I guess this doe must be in estrus, ready to conceive next spring’s fawns, because there were two bucks on her tail (literally).

white-tailed deer

One of the bucks crept up close to her, raising and lowering his head pulling in her scent, and occasionally opening his mouth to stick out his tongue. Must be some good odors wafting through the air this morning.

Later in the morning, I spotted a small buck chasing a doe across a road in one of the local parks, so I followed them down a deer trail through the woods, thinking I might get an action shot.  Five minutes later I  heard loud crashing on the trail behind me, as a buck twice the size of the one I saw earlier headed down the trail right for me.  Big telephoto lens in hand, I jumped behind the nearest tree as the buck went crashing by me — and never got even one shot off.

white-tailed buck stomping

A big buck from a previous foray into the woods — stomping his feet in annoyance at me.

During the rut, White-tailed bucks abandon their previous survival instinct to avoid humans in their single-minded pursuit of females in heat.  A summer’s worth of good foraging allows them to put on lots of muscle and grow a big rack of bony antler material which they will need to fend off competitors for access to the females.

So drive carefully on back roads at this time of year — sex-crazed deer are on the prowl, dashing through woods and field.

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.

Deer frolic

I haven’t seen much of the deer this winter, and the herd seems much reduced in size compared to past winters when there were as many as 19 deer patrolling the backyard.

Today, it was just a small family group:  a doe, her twins produced this past summer, and a medium-sized buck.  Despite sub-zero (F) temperatures, one of the young ones was in a playful mood, butting the doe and jostling his twin.

Mom, always alert to whatever lurks behind the bushes in the neighbor's yard (usually a dog).

Mom, always alert to whatever lurks behind the bushes in the neighbor’s yard (usually a dog).

deer frolic

deer frolic

Is there a tiny nub of an antler forming on the youngster on the left?

Is there a tiny nub of an antler forming on the youngster on the left?

Boisterous boy (if that is in fact the nub of an antler below his ear) looks like he might have an eye infection, or a cold, or something — runny nose, drippy eyes.

deer with a cold

His twin desperately needs a “comb-out” for matted fur.

But what can you do when your twin keeps messing with your fur...

But what can you do when your twin keeps messing with your fur?

Big daddy ignored the whole frolic in the snow bit, and sedately walked across the back of the yard,

buck-1

pausing to stare at me while I took photos (through the windows open to the sub-zero air!).

buck

It looks like Mr. Buck needs a comb-out as well, with burdock seed heads stuck to his forehead.

Tell me how I am supposed to get these things off me without fingers.

Tell me how I am supposed to get these things off me without fingers.