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Whitetail Behavior 101

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

This is Ellen's group. Four of them, three adult does and a fawn. They show up for a corn snack a couple of times a day in bad weather. I throw a few handfuls of cracked corn and sunfower under the spruce for the jays, cardinals, juncoes, sparrows and deer. 

This is Boss Doe. She's the tallest and she pushes the rest around, sort of the way horses do in a small group. It's easy to figure out how the hierarchy goes if you settle back and watch awhile. 

Boss Doe looms over Ellen. It's not hard to predict what will happen next. She wants Ellen away from the little corn that's left.

She paws Ellen with her sharp hoof.

This leaves a white divot of missing hair in Ellen's pelt. (left, below). Now I know how Ellen got the "slight imperfections" in her fabric that make her who she is. Later I went out and gathered up the talisman of long gray and brown hair. Each hair, hollow, providing superb insulation against the bitter cold. I've got it on my drawing table, next to a wing feather from my beloved Garrett the red-headed woodpecker and the 1903 Liberty Head dime I found in the upturned soil when our giant driveway oak fell down. Ellen is special to me.


Get lost, or I'll bop you again. Ellen gives up and goes around the back of the spruce to eat at the other side, away from Boss Doe.

I feel bad for Ellen, but that's just life in the herd. She feels a little put upon. Well, she always looks that way, because she can't raise her head much above horizontal, thanks to her issues. 

Which include droopy ears, a strangely dished and twisted skull, and some spinal deformity. Sometimes I wonder if Ellen was the third of triplets, and she got mashed in utero by her bigger siblings. She certainly was stunted. Though she's given birth to a number of fawns, she's barely bigger than a yearling herself.
I've been photographing her since 2009. When she first showed up I thought she was a fawn. Not so sure now.  She could be considerably older than five. If you don't know her story, click here. 

Ellen's feeling mean. She turns on the youngest in the group.

And, in my favorite image of the series, Ellen bops him with her hoof. She looks pretty mean for a crooked little doe.

Snow flies, and the fawn hollows its back under the blow. Ow!!

Another bop for good measure. This is my corn!

What looks like a victorious pose is just Ellen's "normal" head tilt.

I love watching these deer. They always surprise me.

I know they're a plague in many areas, and I've lived and tried to garden in Connecticut, where they ate everything I planted. For whatever reason, they leave my ornamental plantings and extensive unfenced flower gardens alone. I don't know who to thank. I'm just grateful. 

The vegetable garden has a nine-foot fence around it. I may be grateful, but I'm not dumb. The deer neatly clip off any tomatoes or snap peas that reach a tendril outside the netting. 

Chet Baker brings this lesson of Whitetail Behavior 101 to a close with a salvo of barks as he watches, trembling, at the studio window. He's a good boy, but every dog has his limit. 
And the fawn, last on the totem pole, brings up the rear.


Both informative and entertaining.
I love that you know these deer and have a history with them. It is almost as though they are part of the family -- the wild side of the family one might say :)
Darlene Shamblin

Posted by Anonymous February 4, 2014 at 8:06 AM

I love that you can find so many wonderful things about the world around you, even the things that I would think are common and not worth a second look. : )

You know that you really shouldn't give them corn, right? Their digestive tract isn't set up to deal with it. It's better to give hay (roughage) when it's really cold - the digestion process creates more warmth than the calories from corn.

It is fun to watch them, though!!

We have two does and two yearlings that come by fairly regularly. It always surprises me when momma doe gives her yearling a little shove away from the food. They like to look in the windows at us. We wave to them. I put out food for the birds, and if the deer get there first, well, that's the way it goes.

I'm in love with Ellen :)

I see this kicking behavior all the time, especially in the cold weather when there are tasty tidbits under the feeders. Only white-tails, I haven't observed the muleys doing it, but they aren't around nearly as often.

I didn't know they did that. Kicking order = pecking order.

We have 8 in the yard at the moment and we have a small yard.
We put out a bit of cracked corn for jays and cardinals but the herd comes and and vacuums the yard. They take the niger along with any sunflower that falls from the feeders.
We have one tiny yearling we call Little Bit, and it pushes adults away to get to the seed.

The deer are a major problem here.

I just bought your book The Bluebird Effect and I'm in love!!! I love water colors and found your books art so delightful,so I bought it. And then!! I started reading it and fell in love even more! I fell in love with your hummingbirds. I can't put it down!!

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