Deer Antics that Amuse Us in the Time of Coronavirus… Or Any Time

I am continuing my exploration of the wild side of our property and the surrounding forest by looking at deer behavior today. While I am not sure that it is amusing to the deer, it is amusing to us, except of course, when it involves their eating Peggy’s carefully grown plants. We try to maintain a sense of humor about that. Watching the deer, and all of the wildlife around our property, is also an education. That’s half the fun.

“Okay, guys. Listen up. I am king here. As long as you remember that I eat first, we’ll all get along fine.” Not everyone agreed.

A buck is up at the deer block having a discussion about his right to eat first. It isn’t so much about eating as it is about dominance. If everyone agrees, he will have a few bites and be on his way. And then someone else will have the discussion. It works it way downward. This time, a teenage buck was chased off— rather dramatically. But it doesn’t end there. Buck number one is sent packing by buck number three, who has bigger antlers. Size matters.

“I warned you. Now you pay.” Note how other deer slip in to grab a bite while the confrontation is taking place.
“Not so fast. You may be larger but I have bigger antlers!” Ah, the agony of defeat when the small guy kicks your tail.

I’ve watched a scene unfold several times where the dominant deer chases away the next deer in line, who immediately goes over and kicks the next deer, who goes over and kicks the next one, etc. until there isn’t anybody left to kick. The confrontations are rarely violent. They often end with a gentle tap— as long as the other deer gets the idea. Sometimes there is no confrontation at all, especially among families. And everyone lets fawns eat their fill.

“I’ll scratch behind your ear if you will get my neck.” Grooming is one way deer families build and maintain ties. It starts with moms and fawns and continues even after the kids are fully grown.
This short video captures the deer grooming each other. I found it humorous. Peggy said “so much for social distancing.”

Peggy and I usually don’t put up a deer block. We prefer that the deer behave like deer and eat plants. (As long as they aren’t ours.) But I do put up one when the moms are in their last stages of pregnancy. My reason/excuse is that it helps supplement their diet. But I confess, I like the fact that it encourages the moms to bring their kids by, not to mention all the action we get to see.

Not much action here. One of the extended deer families is having an afternoon snooze with the deer block only a few feet away. Every once in a while, one stands up for a nibble.
Other animals and birds also like the deer blocks including ground squirrels, jays, turkeys, and acorn woodpeckers. In this particular instance, a raven has come to visit. It’s the first one I have ever seen on our property. Judging from Momma-to-be’s reaction, it is the first time she has ever seen one either! Her expression says, “Who and what are you? And what do you intend to do with my deer block?”
“Eat!” appears to be the answer. “And if you don’t like it, I’d suggest you bounce on down the canyon!” Momma deer didn’t buy it.

While the deer block is only up for a few weeks, our bird bath is open for business 24/7 year round. I’ve never seen a bird bathe in it (maybe we have dirty birds), but just about everyone stops by for a drink.

A gray squirrel slurps up water while its companion looks on…
And then joins in.
Although there is a natural spring down in the canyon, the deer seem to prefer the bird bath. We’ve learned that one deer can drink a lot.
And two drink a lot more. Peggy and I are constantly refilling the ‘spring.’
Let me introduce Young Buck. His antlers are just beginning their growth spurt.
He’s a handsome fellow.
And a bit full of himself. If he looks like trouble, that’s because he is. Consider the following:
We work hard to keep the deer away from our plants. One solution is planting things they don’t like. The poppies I featured last week are an example. Lavender is another. Our garden has a ten-foot high fence around it! And this is what I call the Maginot Line of deer barriers. Peggy and I built these Gabion cages several years ago. No deer had ever leapt over them. That is until…
…Young Buck. He jumped over the Gabion cage barrier, scrambled over the cement block wall behind it, sampled the newly plated honeysuckle and leapt over the seven foot dirt wall beyond that. Three times. The last time I had a discussion with him on how delicious venison stew is. Peggy and I also added another small fence. So far, he hasn’t jumped over again. But with him, there aren’t any guarantees. The other deer just stand around and watch in awe, waiting to see what happens. Normally lots of yelling, “BAD DEER!”
Having shown a bad deer, I’ll conclude today’s post by showing a good one eating Mekemson-approved deer food, young oak leaves. The problem here is that the deer was using one of Peggy’s planter villages as a ladder. She had been wondering why her houses and elves kept ending up on the ground!

NEXT POST: More wilderness encounters and lore. Peggy and I hike up the mountain looking for cougars and bears and snakes while a small bird feeder provides more entertainment than either the deer block or the bird bath spring. It’s the law of the jungle out there!

27 thoughts on “Deer Antics that Amuse Us in the Time of Coronavirus… Or Any Time

  1. Thank you, Curt, for showing theses great photos from your property. It is so entertaining with your commentary and I wish the deers could hear.
    You and Peggy don’t get many boring moments with this mix of fun beauties around.
    I had two birdbaths in my previous garden and one became the favourite Bath for
    Blackbird and Pigeon. After they we’re done there was no water left. All that splashing and preening.

    Miriam

    • You are right, Miriam, boredom is never an issue! 🙂 Now getting things done… That’s the issue. Still, we wouldn’t trade our little wildlife sanctuary for anything. I’ve always been surprised that our birds don’t use the bird bath for its supposed purpose. They drink out of it all the time, but that seems to be the extent of their interest. As I noted: We have dirty birds! 🙂 Thanks. It is always fun to share. –Curt

    • Laughing. It can be a little distracting, G. But I always keep a camera handy! It’s quiet now. Even the ground squirrels seem to be snoozing. Maybe I’ll get some work done. –Curt

  2. Deer politics ( and other animal games). It is best they forage and eat naturally for the most part – but love your watering hole.
    It is so lucky to have a bit of sanctuary.
    If we ever manage to get out of here, I may refer back here for barrier advice. Looks well thought out and tried out

    • Endlessy entertaining, Kelly. Floppy just stood outside and watched us do our whole Qigong exercise. I’m not sure whether the deer entertain us more or that we entertain them more. 🙂 –Curt

    • No, not at all, Dave. 🙂 I do remember reindeer games in the outback of Alaska. They would come bouncing up to us, and then. bounce away, and then come bouncing up again. Such fun. –Curt

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