Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tame Deer - the White-tailed Deer

Animal identification can often be quite tricky. Differentiating a Yellow-crested Olive-sided Warbler from a Olive-cheeked Yellow-rumped Warbler can be nearly impossible without a 4-D 300 meter spotting scope, cannon-fired mist net and your own University of Cornell-trained Ornithologist. The larger animals on the other hand should be easily identified. Bears. Moose. Dolphin. How about the White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)?

White-tails are the most wide-ranging members of the deer family in North America and can be found in Canada, most of the United States, Central America and Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador. Here in Florida they tend to weigh in on the leaner side. Males average 125 lbs and females a bit less than 100 lbs. Key Deer, a subspecies of the white-tail is even smaller with males maxing out at 80 lbs.

Deer are noted as being crepuscular, meaning they are active at dawn and dusk but I often see them in the Everglades and similar habitat during the daylight. My thinking is that the main predator of deer in south Florida is the Florida Panther which is a nocturnal hunter and with few other species to be concerned with, the deer forage in the daylight.

The deer in the top photo were spotted in the Picayune Strand State Forest, east of Naples, FL. They seemed to smell me before they heard me, and heard me before they saw me. As I carefully approached they raised their white tails and began to trot away. This serves as a guide for the fawn to follow as they flee. It also attracts predators and when the deer stops and the tail is dropped, the predator has now lost the white tail it was chasing.

The deer in the bottom photo was clearly aware of my presence. I proceeded no further. Eight tines in a rack of antlers trumps a 300mm zoom lens. The buck eventually sauntered off.

And as for the deer in the central frame? They were tame and quite possibly the ugliest White-tail Deer I have ever seen.

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