Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What Are These Deer Doing?

While following tracks through the snow, I found areas that looked as though the deer had run into an obstacle that caused them to shuffle in place before finding a way around. I could see that the downed trees were obstructions, but it didn’t make sense that the deer wouldn’t just go around.

This tree top wasn’t in the way. Why would this cause such a disruption of the traffic pattern? It appeared as though the deer were actually tripping over this branch.

I noticed another of the concentrated hoof print areas that was without any type of blockade. A few Japanese Honeysuckle leaves in the snow made it clear what was happening here.

Just above the hoof marks, were these honeysuckle vines. Deer are fond of honeysuckle and will readily browse the vines. It would be nice if the deer browsed it enough to slow its spread across the landscape.

Most of the vines within reach showed signs of being browsed by deer. Deer lack upper incisors, so the bite consists of pinching the plant between the lower incisors and a hard upper plate. Woody material browsed by deer usually displays a ragged cut.

Only one of the concentration zones had any honeysuckle, but in the other areas, I began to notice fresh cedar cuttings on the snow. I rarely see signs of deer browsing on Eastern Red Cedars, but it appeared that they were feeding on the green growth of newly fallen trees.

All of the fallen cedars showed browse signs. The odd thing is that I didn’t find any signs of deer browsing on upright cedars. Even young, short cedars with what looked like perfectly succulent shoots weren’t touched. I wonder what differences there would be in fallen cedars that would make them so much more attractive to hungry deer.
Note: I stepped out the door this morning into a fresh layer of snow and the sound of the first Woodcock of the year.

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