Mammals · Winter

Oh Deer!

DSCF8517 deer footprints s DSC_1093 deer footprints

We knew that deer visited our property when we are not there. We found footprints in the mud along with scat and would sometimes see white tails vanishing ahead of us as we arrived. Visiting in March, with snow still on the ground, we got to see just how much they enjoy our property. We could see footprints in the snow and it was interesting to see the path they took.

DSC_1097deer highway

When we got to our driveway, we discovered that our driveway was quite the deer highway! We were able to follow the tracks and see exactly where they had been. The trails went out onto the frozen lake and they also went through the gap in the trees beyond the meadow. We knew it was an animal trail there and now we had it confirmed that the deer were using that path.

I have heard the deer snorting in the forest when we have been there. They sound like they are right behind you, but when you turn round you just can’t see them; they blend into the forest so well. They certainly know how to play a good game of hide-and-go-seek and they use that skill when it comes to protecting their young. They leave their fawns hidden in the forest while they go and feed, coming back to feed them several times during the day. They are hidden so well, that last spring I almost stepped on a fawn that was just days old.

Baby deer 2

The sunlight filtering through the leaves casts a dappled pattern that is almost identical to a fawn’s coat. It wasn’t until I was about to step into a pile of leaves that I noticed a baby fawn bedded amongst the leaves. For the first week they spend most of their time curled in a tight circle and freeze if they are frightened. Their heartbeat drops from 175 beats per minute to only 60 beats per minute and their breathing becomes shallow and slow to avoid detection. By about one week old fawns run if they are discovered, but this one stayed perfectly still, so I am guessing it was less than a week old.

We didn’t see mother, but they are normally within 100 yards of their fawns. We went back later in the day and the fawn had gone, so I guess mother saw us and moved her fawn to a new location once we had gone away.

DSC_6911 deer s

Later in the year we had another close encounter with a deer.  I looked out of the window one evening to see a young deer wandering down to the lake.  I grabbed my camera and he saw movement in the cottage.

DSC_6894 deer stand off s

He was obviously young and stood for quite some time staring me down and scuffing the ground with his hoof.  Eventually he wandered off using the trail through the trees that we figured out in the winter was a deer route.  Could this be the little guy I almost stepped on at the end of May?  He would be 4-months old by this time and they are self-sufficient by the end of the summer.  Females tend to stay with their mothers through the winter, but males are more independent and sometimes leave in the fall.

It was so nice to see more than just a white tail vanishing in the distance, but our deer friends have cost us, and our dog Maggie, a great deal.  Deer carry ticks and ticks in our area carry Lyme’s disease.  Unfortunately, or maybe I should say thankfully Maggie was the one who discovered this and not one of us!  At least we are now aware and have become quite practiced in the art of tick checks.

DSC_7415 Maggie

Thankfully, Maggie responded well to treatment and now has the all-clear.  She now takes medication that makes her blood a pesticide that kills the ticks.  There isn’t such a medication for humans, so we have to be vigilant about checking ourselves to make sure we don’t have any on us.  Thankfully they don’t tend to attach straight away.  They like to find a warm, moist area to feed, so any we have found on ourselves have still been crawling and removed before they become a problem.

Since discovering we have ticks on the property we have been keeping the grass around the cottage shorter.  Ticks tend to hang on blades of grass, so keeping the grass short decreases the likely hood of them transferring from the grass to us.  I love all the wildflowers growing around the cottage and we left the grass long at first.  We still leave most of it long, but we have a well-defined area that is often used that we keep short. Mostly we have picked one up when we have been hanging out in the forest and Maggie usually comes back with one when she comes with us.  We still check her out and remove any we find as we don’t want them transferring from her to us, but at least we know if we do miss one, she should be safe from getting Lyme’s disease again.



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