Interfering with the natural order of things


A number of years ago when we first moved to the country side, I wanted to see more of our local wildlife without mucking about in the woods with binoculars.

I set up a tray on an old stump and periodically filled it with corn and birdseed to see what would happen.

Within a very short time, we had some of the fattest squirrels I had ever seen and the drought-ravaged deer lost their hollow appearance and started having fawns like there was a race on to see who could have the most babies.

We accumulated a herd of 20 whitetail deer visitors and got to know every one of them by sight and by behavior. We learned more about deer social behavior than we ever expected. There is a lot of interaction and it isn’t just a simple pecking order.

The image above shows deer and squirrels peacefully eating together. Some times there were chipmunks and birds sharing the food with the deer.

The deer exhibited all sorts of social groupings including a threesome consisting of one female with two bucks in her entourage.

There were several troop leader moms who had evidently adopted straggler fawns who followed them as one big family.

There were even bitter old females who belonged to no groups, but would follow and savagely attack younger females who were popular with others.

Some of the matriarchs would drive off bucks who sought to lead young does off into the woods.

There were flirty young does who would literally bounce around with tails held high when strange deer arrived on the scene.

There were even "hobo" deer, probably young bucks, who showed up tattered and dirty and slunk around the periphery looking for an opportunity to be recognized by the other deer. They were almost never allowed to eat with the others and strangely enough they never ate after the others left. They would tag along when the others left as if they didn’t want to miss anything.

We enjoyed an an ongoing show for almost four years without personally interacting with the deer or other animals. It was extremely educational and worth every bag of corn I put out there. This was a non-hunting area so we didn’t worry that hunters would stake out our backyard feeder.

The deer ranged over a wide area so the hunters got the benefit of a well-fed herd when hunting season rolled around.

Eventually, some local "wildlife authorities" instigated a campaign to prohibit deer feeding because their flowers were being eaten, but I don’t think they got the results they wanted.

I could have told them that the deer ate fewer flowers when there was corn and birdseed available.

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