Animal House: D'oh, a Deer!
"Animal House" is moving from its usual slot on Tuesdays to Sunday. In this first Sunday edition, Chris D'Arpino shares some insight about the white-tailed deer, seen regularly in this part of the state.
I have received several questions about the deer that are seen regularly in our area, or even your backyard, sometimes referred to as “Backyard Bucks.” Deer are great in numbers in Southern New England as well as all of New England because of the deer’s ability to adapt so easily to the environment. There is also a lack of natural predators, other than humans.
Like with most animals they will not go where there is not a food supply and shelter. Why stay where you can’t live and can’t find food? Massachusetts has a healthy deer population statewide (biologists estimate between 85,000 and 95,000) as most of the state supplies a great deer habitat year-round.
White-tailed deer tend to seek forest edge style habitats, like wetlands and abandoned pastures. This fragmented style forest is typical of suburban areas in Southern New England.
The densities of white tailed deer are sometimes higher in suburban areas more than rural areas because of the supplemental food sources we have in our landscape.
The white tailed deer have adapted well to the southern New England winter climates. Not only does their metabolism slow down, which allows for the efficient use of less food, but the white tailed deer has an adapted ability to store body fat for the winter months.
So, the most common question I get is why are they in my back yard? Depending on what you plant you may actually be attracting the Deer!
White-tailed deer are herbivores and eat a wide variety plants. The white tail deer’s diet changes with the season and availability of food sources. They eat green leaves, herbaceous plants, and new growth on woody plants in the spring and summer. As harvest season approaches, and fruit baring trees become ripe, the white tailed deer will eat fruit and nuts as they fall from the trees. In the winter, the deer feed on evergreen leaves, twigs, shoots, hardy leaves, and buds, or even the bark from trees.
White-tailed deer are crepuscular, which means that they are most active at dawn and dusk. Deer may also be active at other times of the day, especially during the breeding season in Massachusetts, which takes place between late October and early December.
During breeding season bucks are more active and have been known to be active throughout the day and even chase females across roads, as we have all seen time and time again.
Doe often leave their babies (fawn), who are able to walk just 20 minutes after birth, alone for hours in order to forage for food. Repeatedly checking on the fawn may keep the mother away until she believes it is safe to return as the fawn’s natural coat provides excellent camouflage and allows it to be generally safe.
If you believe a fawn is not being cared for the best thing to do is to call the Massachusetts wildlife, and report the location. It is illegal to take a fawn out of its environment and you should always let nature take its natural course.
The white tailed Deer is a protected as a big game species in Massachusetts, and there is an established hunting season for this animal.
For more detailed information, visit www.masswildlife.gov.