Monday, August 15, 2016

Wild Neighbors: Deer at the Ranch

My best deer image: a very nice-looking buck poses
When I bought Rancho San Benito early last year, I was told that there is an abundance of deer in the area. One of the primary reasons for buying the property was to have a quiet place where I can spend time closer to the natural world, so the fact that larger wild animals live there was an indicator that the ranch property was good spot for me.

 However, after several months of part-time work on the ranch a cast-off antler, which I picked up and put on a windowsill at the house, was as close as I'd gotten to seeing one of these beautiful animals.

So, inspired by interesting images captured by a cousin of mine in Washington State, and with his advice, last fall I invested in a motion-activated trail camera, of the type used by hunters to watch for game and property owners to monitor activity in remote areas.

I strapped the camera to trees along likely trails and in clearings starting last September, and eagerly visited to switch out the memory card and view my "captures." For several months I got interesting images of a variety of birds and small animals, and lots of pictures of leaves and branches being tossed by windstorms, but nothing of deer.

I was beginning to think that the stories of deer were false, when suddenly in January they started showing up in my pictures. The buck pictured above was the first good image I got, and this was in February. In the same location, a few days later, I captured the image below.

A doe forages in a clearing
 I have wondered why at least four months passed before I started getting pictures of deer. I am not sure, but it must have to to with their movements and the availability of food in the environment. I began to get the deer images after the dry season was in full swing, when much of the lush vegetation had withered and leaves had fallen. I assume deer forage more widely and take greater chances moving into open areas when food is scarce. It also could be that they are just more easy to see when vegetation is sparse.

The camera documented this pair of Yucatan Jays harassing a doe

"Hi there!" This doe got a good close look at the camera

I still have not seen a live deer on the ranch property, but as I spend more time out there, and as I learn more about their habits (with the help of the camera), I expect to do so.

I've gotten more interesting shots of other wild neighbors on the ranch with the motion-activated camera. I'll share them in a future post.

Text and images copyright 2016 by Marc Olson