Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Grand Marais Bay and White Tail Deer

Today's blog will include a few winter pictures, mostly of the bay, a couple of pictures of deer in my yard, and facts about white tail deer.

First a couple of shots of the bay in Grand Marais.  There is a bit of floating ice, but mostly open water.  This has happened in other recent years, but not historically.  Of course the erosion of the old breakwall and island that used to protect the bay has had an influence.  However, even after the bay opened up to the waves of Lake Superior the bay usually froze over in the winter.  The village of Grand Marais even had snowmobile races on the bay because it's surface was significantly frozen.  This year the bay in Munising and even the Keweenaw Bay are not as frozen as usual.

These are not the best pictures as they were taken just before it turned dark, but here they are.

I decided to include some information about Whitetail Deer.

Scientific name: Odocoileus virginianus
Average weight male: 150 to 311 pounds (68 to 141 kg)
Average weight female: 90 to 211 pounds (41 to 96 kg)
Average height: 27 to 45 inches (68 to 114 cm)
Average lifespan: 6 to 14 years, but up to 20 years (in captivity)

The North American Whitetail Deer can be found throughout the continental U.S. as well as in Canada, Mexico,Central America and northern parts of South America.   They spend their time in wooded areas and dense forests. Relatives include elk, moose and reindeer. It is interesting that many states have the Whitetail Deer including Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. 

How many deer are there in the U.S.?  No one knows for sure but experts think the total number has increased significantly.  During the mid-1980s it was thought that there were around 15 million.  Today experts estimate there are around 40 million.

White tailed deer are a small deer with short ears and a long tail with white underneath. Few deer live to be more than 5 years old because of hunting, vehicle accidents and predators. The male "buck" is the only mammal in North American that has antlers. The female or "doe" does not have antlers, and has a wider hind quarters than it's chest.

Under normal conditions, these deer have a fairly small territory. If there is enough food, they will stay in the same area long periods of time.  They sleep in thickets and come out in the early evening to drink water and forage for food, returning to the thicket after the sun rises to bed for the day. They prefer to live near stream bottoms, draws or swamps.  Deer are preyed upon by wolves, bears, coyotes, bobcats and humans. Decline in predators of the deer has caused population growth.

Whitetail Deer are herbivore's. Over 614 different plants are eaten by these deer. They mainly like to eat agricultural crops, acorns, grasses, leaves, shoots, twigs, fungi, fruit and nuts. Deer drink in the morning before they go to sleep and then in the evening. They don't really care if it is crystal clear water or not. They are more likely to drink someplace within there territory than to wander off to a better source.

Bucks use there antlers to fight and get the attention of the female. The antlers begin to grow in the buck's second year. A male deer with small bumps instead of antlers (button buck) is under 1 years old. Yearlings can have 6-8 points if they wintered well and have a good food supply. You can tell the age of a deer by the diameter of the antlers and by it's teeth. Bucks reach maturity at 3 1/2 years and will have medium to large antlers.

Antlers are fast growing -- up to two inches per week, starting in the spring. The velvet on the antlers provide blood supply making the antler bones grow. When a buck's hormone level increases, the antlers stop growing. Once they stop growing, the velvet dies and bucks use trees and shrubs to rub it off. The larger the buck the bigger the rubs. Rubs look like the bark has been shredded off about 2-4 feet from the ground. These pictures I took in Marquette a couple of weeks ago must be a deer rub.

Bucks use their antlers as a weapon in the mating ritual to defend does. During the pre-rut, bucks will play fight or spar. Sparring establishes dominance. As breeding season draws closer, fights become more serious. They go head-to head, challenging the opponent by locking antlers, pushing and shoving, trying to knock the other off it's feet. Usually it ends with the winner chasing off the loser. After the breeding season, the bucks antlers fall off.

A deer's hearing is sensitive. When they hear a noise, they turn to face it with their ears propped up. If they sense danger, they make a quick get away. The Whitetail Deer uses it's tail to signal other deer as they are running by lifting it up and will also use the hairs on it's rear end.  The doe, fawn and buck communicate with each other by using sounds, gestures and marking their territory with scents. Different sounds have different meanings. Bleats and grunts are the most common sounds heard.

One more picture I took out my kitchen window of ice hanging off the roof.

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