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

20 comments:

  1. I'm trying to remember when deer season is in Texas. I know it is in cold weather because I had a girl scout troop out at a campsite once on the first day of deer season. SCARY. Maybe they travel. My son is a wildlife biologist, I'll ask him!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deer are protected here. Locals hunt anyhow, but it's pretty low-key. Nothing like some places in the States, where the season is like an army invasion. I see hunters (or at least people walking in the countryside with rifles or shotguns), but have never heard a shot fired around my place.

      Delete
  2. Wonderful shots! I had a little ranch in Texas. My deer traveled 2-3 miles from my place for food and water. White Tails like shrubs and mid-high grass to protect fawns which usually came in late June. When I found their trails and bedding areas I made sure to leave 60% of the habitat. They can't move through dense areas and open areas make vulnerable as prey. Hope this helps!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My place will stay largely untouched. Although I am clearing some areas for hardwood production and an orchard and garden, probably 70% of the property will stay just as it is. I will be trying to reintroduce some native species that were wiped out by grazing cattle, but that should improve wildlife habitat.

      Delete
  3. It also could be that they are just more easy to see when vegetation is sparse.

    That more than anything would be my guess.
    I remember venison and wild turkey being common on the menu in the small towns in Yucatan when I was a young twenty something. Hides from the big cats were sold in the markets. I saw smaller spotted cats stuffed with cotton being used as stuffed toys by the children.
    It was good to see a post from you, I was wondering how you were doing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've frequently been offered venison by pueblo friends, and must admit that I have partaken. It's good, and better for you than most commercially-produced meat. I grew up eating wild fish and game in Alaska, so it's not at all unusual for me.

      There are turkey and some wild cats still around, and I have the proof...but that's material for a future post.

      Delete
    2. I put out orchards and the deer do their best to rip the small trees apart. I bought a roll of the heavy screen used in animal cage floors to put around the trees. It is stiff enough to stand on its own and easy to move away when trimming weeds around the new trees. I tried the regular fencing but it was too light, the deer would push it over or get it caught in their horns and I would find it with the brush hog-not a good thing.

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
  4. High technology. Interesting. Especially the birds bugging the deer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not a person who adopts new tech just because it's there, but this camera is a great thing. I can observe and learn a lot about things that happen when I am not there, and maybe about animals that make themselves scarce when I am around. So it is interesting.

      About the birds. I have seen similar behavior by crows harassing eagles in Alaska, dive-bombing them from behind and picking at their backs as they fly or roost. I am not sure why they do it. The eagle is a much stronger predator, but because of the size difference is not well-equipped to respond to the more-agile smaller birds. I did see an eagle take out one of those pesky crows on one occasion, but I do not believe it happens very often.

      Delete
  5. Good to see you back in the traces. For a moment, I thought your shots were from a trip to Alaska.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it feels good to be blogging. I am glad you are still at it, too.

      Delete
  6. Put out a salt block in front of one of the cameras. You will see plenty of deer then.
    It is nice to see deer, but they can be a pest sometimes, especially if you have an orchard.
    Deer will run from you, but elk will make you run.

    Good luck,

    Robert Gill
    Phoenix, Arizona

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is illegal hunting in the area. I am afraid if I created an attraction for the deer, I'd also attract unwanted human attention. I am content t know they are there, and am confident I will see the deer from time to time. I still don't live there; when I get the house fixed up and move onto the ranch, I will see them.

      Delete
  7. Several years ago we started wintering in Merida, so gave our dog to a neighbor up north whom I still visit weekly. Without the dog, our place has been overrun by wildlife, to the point that I can't garden anymore. In June a doe raised two spotted fawns about 50 feet from our back door. I could actually step out onto the deck and talk to them without alarming them. It was delightful watching one fawn get his racing legs. (Having raised sheep on our farm, I always enjoyed that stage of springy step.) Fun to see your fotos. Looking forward to seeing you this fall, although we don't have tickets yet. Much to do here, as we will sublet our northern digs to friends this year. ~eric. MeridaGOround. com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These deer are accustomed to hunters being in the area. They are not at all interested in being near people.

      I look forward to seeing you when you get here.

      Delete
  8. So glad to see another post, Marc. Really interesting! What a wonderful deer, looking right at the lens. There is such an intimacy with such direct gazes, isn´t there? Whether the connection is with a device or a person, it is still important.

    I have one question, however: What makes you conclude that the birds were harassing the deer? Was it an ensuing photo in which the deer reacted? After your post, (and because I am a big bird fan), I Googled ¨friendships deers and birds¨, and found some amazing photos suggesting the opposite of harassment.

    But loved the photos, and am eagerly awaiting more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alinde, I am guessing the birds were harassing the deer, based upon the body language of the deer (head down, ears back, eyes squinting, moving quickly) which is visible in a sequence of four images, only one of which I published.

      But I could be wrong. I guess I ought to look further into the subject.

      Delete
    2. Maybe the birds were picking ticks.

      Robert Gill
      Phoenix, AZ

      Delete
    3. I thought of ticks, having seen birds in the past picking ticks off the backs of cattle. That could be, but this deer seems to be uncomfortable and trying to escape the attention of the birds. If picking ticks off of deer were a habitual behavior, I guess I would expect the deer to be less bothered by it.

      Delete

I appreciate comments, but will delete comments that are rude, offensive or off topic. Unfortunately, due to the heavy volume of spam, comment moderation has been enabled. I will try to approve comments promptly, but your patience is appreciated.
If you have technical trouble leaving your comment, please email it to:
marc_olson@hotmail.com
and I will post it for you.