Finding White-tailed Deer feeding in broad daylight is much more challenging now than it was earlier in the fall. The regular (gun) hunting season is winding down, the herd has been reduced, and the remaining deer are very wary. Natural movement and foraging activities are more nocturnal than diurnal.
A small family unit, an adult doe and her button buck fawn, surprised me today in the midday sun. They were drawn out of hiding by the sweet scent of fermenting wild apples on the ground. I also wonder if the mature doe learned something from the long nasty winter of 2014-15: eat now because good food sources will soon be few and far between.
The 6-month-old fawn was reckless, stepping clear of the thicket and feeding on apples out in the open.
Its mother, older and wiser, chose to feed in heavy cover.
A serious coastal storm is approaching, bringing rain, then a couple of days of heavy, wet snow. Animals sense these events and react instinctively.
This doe and button-buck fawn, captured yesterday afternoon about 24 hours prior to the storm’s arrival, were at rest, grooming and chewing their cud. As is the case with cattle, sheep, antelope, elk and other ruminants, the complex, 4-part stomach of deer enables them to eat a wide variety of food, including woody twigs, in a short period of time, then seek cover from threats like coyotes and severe weather. While at rest, the consumed food, fermenting in the stomach by microbial action, is then regurgitated as cud and chewed again to improve digestion and complete the process.
Think about it – how would you eat an apple if you had no front teeth on your upper jaw, and couldn’t just “take a bite”? White-tailed Deer have a solution: maneuver the apple into the back of your mouth and crunch it up with your molars. This method can be awkward, occasionally hilarious, but it works!