White-tailed Deer - Odocoileus virginianus

I saw no deer in the valley today (White-tailed Deer - Odocoileus virginianus).

With my canvas knapsack packed with a green wool blanket, a Nalgene bottle full of water, a can of beef stew, my butane/propane stove, a spoon and my mora knife, I made my way down into the valley.

Along the way I walked under a maple tree, branches dangling low. I reached and grabbed a low branch and swept it out of my way and walked under and away... I noticed vaguely and then rather clearly an intense buzzing and looked back to see a hornet's nest surrounded with swirling hornets. I backed away slowly, and then saw a hornet fly straight toward me - like a bullet. Man, you shoulda seen me run - I dove for the ground, did a roll (seriously), and leaped off the edge of a slope racing away as fast as I could. My heart was beating as fast as a bongo-drum, and I was laughing to myself - now THAT was intense! The hornet missed.

The rest of my journey was far more relaxed. I walked down into the pine woods and listened carefully to the birds and to the scolding squirrels. I even listened for hornets - being somewhat attuned to them at this point. I heard nothing out of the ordinary.

I sat down on my blanket, began to heat up my can of beef stew and just lay there beneath the branches.

After a while I packed up and began to walk in a direction that I'd never been before - straight back through the most wooded parts of the area and beneath some very spiky bushes. After a hundred feet or so, the area opened up and the sun shone down. At my feet there were footprints from deer all about. I noticed the grasses and weeds were gently trampled down in areas, and it appeared that deer had slept the night in one section. On and on through the undergrowth I pushed my way through and saw more and more sign of deer. Deer scat - a loose pile of dark pellets - looked fresh, and I had a sudden feeling that there were deer deeper in the woods watching me carefully. Deer leave their fawns alone for hours. Fawn sleep quietly in the grass, and so I scoured the area visually to see if I could seen any. I didn't.

I eventually emerged from a ridge on the edge of a well-worn trail. Taking this back into the main trail of the valley, I wandered slowly and looked around at the green and the birds flitting about.

Although I didn't see any deer today, I almost did. I'll wander down there during the evening soon, when the deer will be more active - I marked various locations on my GPS device so that I would be able to find my way back again. It will be a good opportunity for me to bring my night-vision device too...
The graceful white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus is well known to most North Americans. Hunters and nonhunters alike recognize the animal by its habit of flourishing its tail over its back, revealing a stark white underside and white buttocks. This "flag" of the white-tailed deer is often glimpsed as the high spirited animal dashes away from people. The tail has a broad base and is almost a foot long. When lowered, it is brown with a white fringe.

In summer, the white-tailed deer has a reddish pelage, or fur, on its back and sides and is whitish beneath. In winter the upper parts turn greyish. Full grown male deer frequently exceed 1 m at shoulder height and 110 kg in weight, with exceptional individuals weighing up to 200 kg in the northern part of their range.

The antlers of the mature male white-tail consist of a forward curving main beam from which single points project upward and often slightly inward. Perhaps one of every 1 000 females also bears small, simple antlers.

The white-tailed deer is hard to distinguish from the black-tailed deer. The black-tail has similar antlers and will sometimes show the characteristic "flag" of the white-tail but usually with less flare. Fortunately, for identification purposes, the black-tailed deer occurs only west of the Great Divide (its Canadian range is coastal B.C. and Vancouver Island), where the white-tailed deer is uncommon.

Confusion is less likely between the white-tailed deer and the darker stockier mule deer. The mule deer can be distinguished by a small white tail with a black tip and antlers that divide and redivide into paired beams and points. It also has large ears that are more like those of a mule than those of its more delicate cousin. Unfortunately people in different parts of Canada have given these two types of deer the same nickname, "jumper." In the Prairies the mule deer is dubbed "jumper," in recognition of its stiff-legged bouncing gait. Elsewhere people may mean the white-tail when they use the term, referring to that animal’s irregular jumping gallop when alarmed.


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