Monday, May 16, 2011

A seasoned buck rub...

The field I was walking through the other night is across the street from my parent’s house. The field is surrounded on 3 sides by a woodlot, and on the 4th side is a road. Within the field, there are mown paths for walking. In between the paths there are saplings of ash, sumac, and maple trying to take hold. There’s also the run of the mill field brush such as golden rod, milkweed, tall grasses, thistle, and grapevines. The mown paths are a nice plush, green, grassy path.

I was walking my dogs in the field the other night around 7:00 pm. It was a nice night for a walk, although the black flies were out! As I was walking, the dogs were running ahead and behind in all directions, causing me to keep turning to keep track of all 3 of them. As my oldest girl fell behind, I turned and stopped to wait for her to catch up. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the bark of a sapling was worn away. The “rub” was about 2 feet off the ground, and 1 foot in total length.
I also noticed that the rub was at least a season old, as the fresh wood underneath the worn away bark didn’t look as fresh as when I pulled a shred of bark away. The wood had a slightly discolored, aged look to it. This led me to believe what I discovered was a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virgianus) buck rub from the fall of 2010.

I was surprised to read in the Stokes book that male white-tail, or bucks, travel in groups of 2-5 deer at a time. I had just assumed that like many other wild animals, the males were solitary. I’ve seen groups of deer before in a pasture or field, but again, I always assumed it was mixed company or just females and young ones. The does travel in groups of 2-9 deer at a time.
 In Stokes it states, “If you spot a group of deer, watch them for a while and look closely for interactions between the deer. In any group there are dominant members and subordinate members.” This is another notion that had never occurred to me, a pecking order within the group of deer. There are different behaviors that the deer can exhibit that can be watched for. Behaviors such as the “ear-drop” in which the deer drops its head and flattens its ears back against its neck in an act of submission. And then there is the “hard look” in which the more dominant of deer will lowers its head and stares hard at the opposition. The main difference between the two stances I think is the presence of eye contact. In the second behavior, there is a hard stare that gives direct eye contact, if the other opposing deer is willing to meet it.

What is a group of deer called? A herd? In the Stokes book they are referred to as a group, but I believe there’s another word for it. Also, is there a difference between a female group and a male group?

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