Thursday, August 22, 2013

Where are they now?

Various species of wildlife obviously change their routines with the seasons and as the pressures of breeding and finding food and cover vary. And those changes become a challenge and a learning opportunity for naturalists and biologists and anyone interested in wildlife.

In checking one of my camera traps the mystery of those changing routines was brought home. Last winter, long after the end of deer season, a large 8-point buck appeared in several photos at a new camera location which has since become one of my favorite spots. He was an impressive deer and must have avoided hunters for several years.

What was probably the same deer was caught by the camera a number of times in the spring, the last being in mid-May as his new antlers were already showing their potential.

The same camera location also provided photos of a piebald deer beginning in early March as the winter's snow melted. The piebald was a young buck that had just survived his first winter and traveled with his mother and sister.

He showed up repeatedly until early June and hasn't appeared in a photo since then.

In fact, this is the most notable deer that has been caught by that camera since the piebald's last appearance.

So, the question is -- Where are the big buck and the piebald now? White-tailed deer usually have a home range of about a square mile; young bucks typically disperse from their mother's home range, while young does tend to stay at home. The young bucks often travel four to six miles from where they were born before establishing their own home range, although some go much further. So, the piebald may well have traveled far beyond the area where he spent the spring of 2013. But, that doesn't explain the non-appearance of the older buck. Several researchers have found that adult males increase the size of their home ranges from late spring until the end of the fall breeding season, so the large buck is probably just spending more time further from the camera location.

Of course, either deer may have succumbed to injury or disease, been taken by a poacher or been hit by a vehicle -- the camera trap may catch them again, or it may not. That's one of the joys of having a camera trap, each time it's checked it opens the door to a mystery.

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