Sunday, February 21, 2010

White Tail Deer in Winter

I have been told that the Plains Indians referred to February as the time the deer are hungry. I believe that the white tails on the prairie are often hungry this time of year.
 
We have too many deer in our area. Hunters are unable to harvest as many as game management professionals recommend. The highway ditches are littered with carcasses of deer that have been hit by cars and trucks. Farmer Fred spoke to a truck driver who hit a deer last week while driving down the main street of a nearby town during the day. There are over a hundred deer in that town. Trucks usually have no problems with damage, but cars are often badly damaged and sometimes people are injured. This photo illustrates the tendency for deer to cross from open spaces toward trees in front of oncoming vehicles, especially in the dark.
Our snow is deep and the chance of finding food on the ground is remote. Deer have eaten down grain left in fields earlier in the winter, before the snow piled on. They moved onto hilltops where there is less snow to paw through before finding the last vegetation available there.
 
Deer often find spilled grain where trucks are loaded for winter crop delivery. In farm yards and small towns they eat tender trees and bark in yards and shelter belts and begin to form herds to protect each other from predators. Herds of deer will eat any form of vegetation when they are starving.
Last spring Robbie saw a white tail doe kill a coyote with her front hooves while protecting her fawn. The successful birth and strength to battle predators depends on good food sources.
Hay left out on the prairie is vulnerable. Once the deer have climbed on top of the bales where they eat, urinate, and defecate, the hay is useless as feed for cattle. Hay in yards is also fodder for herds of deer who move in the darkness. They jump cattle fences with ease.
The deer living in the trees near this field are not going hungry, yet.

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