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Posts tagged “white-tailed deer

Moose Scat Form Reflects Diet

1-16-14 moose scatBiologists estimate that moose defecate anywhere from 13 to 21 times a day. The appearance of moose scat, as well as deer, varies throughout the year. Its form depends in large part on the amount of moisture in the moose’s diet. Summer scat often looks like loose plops, or patties, due to heavy consumption of herbaceous aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation. As fall approaches and a moose’s diet includes more woody vegetation, its scat consists of clumps of soft pellets. In the dead of winter, when moose are browsing almost exclusively on trees, individual dry pellets are produced. Spring scat is similar to fall scat, as moose are transitioning into a different diet during both of these seasons.

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White-tailed Deer Pheromone Glands

11-15-13 white-tailed deer glands 582Animals communicate with their own species through strongly scented chemicals known as pheromones. Many mammals have glands that generate pheromones. The messages the scents convey vary according to the pheromone that is used – they can indicate alarm, territorial boundaries, the age of an animal and/or its sex, hierarchy and the receptiveness of an animal during the breeding season, among other things. White-tailed deer have scent glands where you might not expect them – their heads, legs and feet. Their primary glands and their functions are: forehead (scent left on antler rubs and overhanging branches), preorbital (near eye, doe uses it to communicate with fawns), interdigital (between the two toes of each hoof, foul-smelling yellow substance left on the ground with every step a deer takes), nasal (inside nose, may produce a scent, or may just lubricate the nose), preputial (on inside of buck’s penal sheath, function unknown), tarsal (inside of hind legs near middle joint, urinated on to spread scent, used intensely by bucks during rut) and metatarsal (outside of hind legs between ankle and hoof, function, if any, unknown).

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White Baneberry Fruits Mature

8-15-13 white baneberry fruit 056All parts of the White Baneberry plant (as well as Red Baneberry) are highly toxic. The fruit, called “doll’s eyes” for obvious reasons, is the most poisonous part, known to cause respiratory paralysis and cardiac arrest in humans. It does not have this effect on all mammals, however. White-tailed deer are known to browse on baneberry, and small rodents such as mice, squirrels and voles feed on the fruit. Geometrid moth larvae (“inchworms”) burrow into the fruits and their seeds while they (the fruits) are still green. A wide variety of birds, including American Robins and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, eat the fruit, helping disperse the plants when they excrete the brown, wedge-shaped seeds (insert). Ruffed Grouse also eat the fruits, but the seeds are destroyed in the digestive process. Oddly enough, Native Americans used the juice of Red Baneberry to gargle with as well as to poison their arrows.

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White-tailed Deer Diet & Digestion

11-30-12 deer eating IMG_6035A white-tailed deer’s diet consists of a wide variety of herbaceous and woody plants, the ratio of one to the other being determined by the season. Fungi, fruits and herbaceous plants form much of the summer diet. Dried leaves and grasses, acorns, beechnuts and woody browse are important autumn and early winter food. After snowfall, the winter diet consists mostly of woody browse (twigs, leaves, shoots and buds) from many different trees (maples, birches and cedars among them). Come spring, deer eat buds, twigs and emerging leaves. Deer are ruminants (as are cattle, goats, sheep and moose). They have a four-chambered stomach, which is necessary in order to digest the cellulose in the vegetation they consume. Food goes first to the rumen, the first of the four chambers, which contains bacteria and other microorganisms that help digest the cellulose. Food is circulated from the rumen back to the deer’s mouth by the second chamber, or reticulum, and the deer ruminates (“chews its cud”). The third chamber, or omasum, functions as a pump, sending the food to the final chamber, the abomasum, where the digestion process is completed.


Common Juniper

Common Juniper (Juniperus communis) is one of the few evergreen shrubs in New England and has one of the largest ranges of any woody plant.  You often find it in old pastures and meadows, where its sharp needles protect it from most herbivores.   It is a member of the Pine family, and even though its fruits look like berries, structurally they are cones (with fleshy scales).  Whereas most of the cone-bearing members of the Pine family disperse their seeds in the wind, Common Juniper uses birds and mammals to do this deed.  Cedar waxwings, evening grosbeaks and purple finches consume quantities of juniper fruit, and many other songbirds are frequent visitors.  White-footed mice and white-tailed deer occasionally eat the fruit as well.  While not aiding the dispersal of seeds, humans do use the fruit to flavor gin.


White-tailed Does Still Nursing

A doe giving birth for the first time usually has one fawn.  The following year, and until she is quite old, twins are the norm.  Triplets are fairly common, quadruplets are known, and there are at least two records of quintuplets.  Fawns nurse for eight to ten weeks before being weaned.  It’s apparent from this doe’s udder that her young are still nursing in late July.


White-tailed Deer Fawn

White-tailed Deer fawns are close to two months old now, and will retain their spots until their gray winter coat grows in this fall. The dappling of the spots enhances a fawn’s ability to remain camouflaged up until it is large enough and strong enough to outrun most predators. However, it doesn’t hide them from biting insects. During the summer months, when White-tailed Deer, including fawns, have a relatively thin, cool coat of hair, they are very vulnerable to biting insects such as female horse flies and deer flies. These flies make tiny slices with their blade-like mouthparts in their host’s skin in order to have access to their blood. This fawn was being constantly bothered by such flies.


White-tailed Deer Carcass on Ice

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Often when a deer goes down on ice, it is unable to get back up on its legs. Because of how a deer’s hip and shoulder joints work, one fall can tear connective tissues in a way that keep it down. Its legs splay outward as it falls and it can’t get up.  It is then destined to freeze, starve or be found by predators.  Whether it slips on its own, or is chased out onto the ice by a coyote or some other predator, a fall can be a death sentence for deer. However, its carcass does not go to waste.  It doesn’t take long for predators and scavengers to become aware of this bountiful supply of food.  For years, in Massachusetts on Quabbin Reservoir, bald eagles have relied on ice-stranded deer for their winter survival.  The deer in the accompanying photographs was consumed in a few days by a wide variety of predators, including bald eagles, coyotes, red foxes and a great many ravens, judging from tracks found nearby.  Not a morsel did they waste – the hide was thoroughly cleaned, and the organs, flesh and many of the bones were eaten.  The only portion of the deer that hadn’t been touched was the contents of its intestines – everything else had been picked clean as a whistle.


White-tailed Deer and Snow

In the past 24 hours the first storm of the season dumped 4”- 6” of wet snow on the ground at higher elevations in central Vermont and New Hampshire.  Conditions which produce the juxtaposition of red maple leaves, snow and deer  tracks don’t occur every year.  White-tailed deer are very active in the fall — they are feeding heavily and accumulating fat for the  winter and the impending breeding season, or rut.  While a few inches of snow don’t pose much of a challenge for browsing deer, once the snow is fairly deep, their travel is curtailed and deer congregate in yards – densely canopied conifer stands, where protection from the wind and the presence of well-worn deer trails help decrease the amount of energy they expend in order to survive.


Beechnuts

Birds and mammals that rely on beechnuts as a staple of their diet include black bears, white-tailed deer, fishers, porcupines, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, wood ducks, tufted titmice, and numerous small rodents, to name but a few.  There is a good reason for this – beechnuts have about the same protein content as corn, but five times the fat content.  Beechnuts also have nearly twice as much crude protein and twice the fat of white oak acorns and about the same fat content as red oak acorns.  Given the number of husks and nuts that are on the forest floor this fall, it appears that this is a good year for beechnut mast, or seed production.  Research has shown that high beechnut production in the fall is correlated with a high percentage of reproducing female black bears in the coming winter.