Oh Deer-Wild Files: It's our Nature

·3 min read

Oh deer. There is certainly no sighting shortage of these beautiful and graceful hooved mammals or ungulates throughout the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa People and the land chosen as home by the Métis Peoples. British Columbia is home to three types of deer: the black-tailed, white-tailed and the mule. White-tailed deer are the ones that look closest to Bambi and are the oldest species of deer in North America, with approximately 65,000 throughout B.C.

Mule deer are the largest of the three species and the newest on the evolution chain. They are a result of black-tail and white-tailed interbreeding. Mules are the deer we see most often foraging on the roadside, holding up traffic or braving their way into town. We have approximately 165,000 in the Interior, while the numbers in northern B.C. are much lower, ranging from 20,000 to 25,000. Black-tailed are the smallest of the three, known for their rope-like black tails. They are the best swimmers, prefer the coast and are spotted the least in the Interior.

According to WildSafe B.C., with an average of more than 4,500 reports per year, urban deer conflicts are on the rise in many communities, with deer being the most reported species to the Conservation Officer Service, after the black bear. While we may be drawn to their gentle appearance and would love to try to feed or pet them, the fact remains they are wild animals and one must refrain from attempting this. There have been more vehicle collisions and attacks on people in recent years, with deer spending more time in urban areas. Deer are herbivores and grazers. Despite their cute appearance, they can be a nuisance to gardeners, creating significant losses for the green thumbs among us.

Buck up on this information

Only bucks (male deer) have antlers, which are made from bone that protrude from their pedicle. White-tailed deer are the only species with their antlers sprouting off a main beam from their head, while the black-tailed and mule deer have antlers that are forked and branch out in two separate parts. All deer shed their antlers during the middle of winter. When mule deer feel threatened, they escape by stotting, which involves bounding with stiff legs. White-tailed deer are known for their gallop, waving their white tail as they flee, which is referred to as flagging. Does are protective mothers of their fawns and have been known to attack dogs and people if they sense any kind of danger. Does produce offspring every year and twins can be common. While adult deer leave scent trails through their pheromones, fawns have no scent at all and will wait silently and patiently for their mother to return. Does may not return to their fawn if they sense a human’s presence, so despite what your heart may be telling you, do not approach one if you feel it may be abandoned. Instead, contact your Conservation Office Service.

Deer myths

Being able to tell a buck print from that of a doe by the presence of their dew claws is false. In fact, all deer have dew claws and will leave a print when the ground is snowy, wet, or muddy, despite their gender. Another common myth is that only large bucks rub on large trees. Size does not matter with this activity as all deer enjoy this ritual. Deer are prey for many predators, with cougars being their prime hunter. Wolves, coyotes, bears and wolves often prey on fawns. Deer are an important source of food and raw materials for Indigenous people, as they make wonderful use of the meat and hide and never waste what they can use. In Indigenous cultures, deer are often associated with fertility and are seen as messengers, representing sensitivity, gentleness, and intuition. Use your own gentleness and tuition when encountering deer. If you experience any deer conflict or believe you have discovered an abandoned fawn, contact the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer

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