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Diana’s Quiz – April 20, 2024

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Science & NatureWhat is That?What Is That … Whitetail?

What Is That … Whitetail?


Cottaging in the Lanark Highlands, of course we see many whitetail deer every year, but the number varies from year to year.  This year started out with a visiting neighbour meandering towards the shore and nearly trodding upon a wee fawn nestled in the grasses under the blue spruce beside the cottage.  The spot under the spruce provided the perfect place for mother doe to cache baby while she grazed a safe distance away out of sight.  At this time of year the fawn depends on its mother’s milk for nourishment.  In order to provide nourishment to her fawn, mother must eat.  The photo of this year’s wee fawn was taken June 8 which is the earliest we have ever seen a fawn.

But in truth, our sightings of whitetail deer started even earlier, in April, when we spent a snowy night at the cottage.  When it is as cold as it was that day, we do not usually sleep over, but we were rewarded for doing so, when we arose early to stoke the wood stove, and saw four does on the lakeside ‘lawn’ grazing.  We did not dare step outside to take a photo, but we were thrilled to capture this shot, albeit through a dirty window and partially obstructed by the deck railing.  The does were still wearing their dark winter coats, and we were delighted they chose our lawn to munch.

We have seen does at the cottage with as many as three fawns.  In both 2013 and 2014, one doe spent quite a bit of time resting and watching her triplets, as they cavorted on our lakeside ‘lawn’.

In 2022, one particular doe visited continually through the summer with her twins.  We understand that twins (or triplets) is a sign of a healthy doe and a deer-friendly environment.   The next photograph was taken July 15th.  Behind the chicken wire protecting three small saplings from beaver, you see the doe with one twin.  The second twin shows more clearly in front of the old ice storm-damaged poplar we keep for the woodpeckers.

We seldom see male deer, but this year we saw a bumper number.  First in July, a young buck visited the same area where the doe and fawns had been a little earlier in the month.  You can just see the short spikes of his growing antlers.  This male’s neck is not thick and its legs seem a little spindly.  We are told by knowledgeable nieces and nephews it might be in its second summer.

We have too many photographs of whitetail deer from 2022 to share them all with you, but one unique shot stands out, that of a nine-point stag.  As we said earlier, we seldom see male whitetail deer at the cottage, so seeing this magnificent buck was a great thrill.  We understand that the number of points on his antlers does not necessarily tell age, but we can see he has a thicker neck and more robust body than the male shown earlier in this article, so we have been told he could be a three or four-year-old.  Some reading this article will be able to judge better than we can.

Later in the summer, in August, attracted by the salt lick on the woodpeckers’ tree, ‘our’ twin fawns posed nicely for the following photograph.  One of the twins is significantly smaller than the other which might indicate it is a female.

By October, our autumn rituals are starting to kick in.  We are packing up our wildlife books to take home to the city for the winter.  The deer’s coats are starting to thicken and turn a dark brown, we assume to assist with winter camouflage.  Of course their coats are also thickening for the winter temperatures.  Neither of these changes is voluntary.  We can choose between a light or heavy coat, but deer do not have a choice.  We hope the deer we saw this summer are warm and healthy, and make it through the winter to return in the spring wearing their new 2023 coats, accompanied by plenty of spotted coats (fawns).

Most of this article simply describes our personal observations, but we reviewed the chapter on whitetail deer found in Tamara Elder’s Mammals of Ontario in preparation for writing.




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