White-tailed deer

Deer have been visiting us nearly every evening. They aren’t as scrawny as is typical for March. That must be because, except for two spells of frigid weather, we’ve had fairly moderate temperatures. Repeatedly this winter, there’s been snows, and then thaws. The deer must have been able to find more food than during a usual winter. And they’ve been in larger herds than we recall from other years.

Soon after Steve shot this video with his iPhone, more snow arrived.

The deer keep coming. A few are habituated to our bird feeder. They are eating what must mostly be oiled sunflower seed husks. Well, the finches have been coming in large flocks and one of their pastimes is picking a seed out of the feeder and dropping it on the ground. So there must be at least some sunflower seeds down there too.

This deer hung around and ate under the feeders long after the rest of the herd left the property. In fact, she wandered off a few times and then came back for more. She knows we’re watching and is hyper-alert. But still she eats her fill.

Chowing down under the feeder isn’t anything new. Almost exactly one year ago, check out what we caught on our game camera one night.

Even if their habits along our county roads suggest that deer aren’t the sharpest crayon in nature’s box, they are beautiful and interesting creatures.

Thirsty fawn

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“Mom, I know it’s kind of early for us to be drinking. But I’m parched. If I don’t get something to drink right now, I’m going to faint.”

“You drink, I’ll watch. Drink quickly, little fawn. I don’t like the looks of that guy in the pontoon boat. He’s aiming something at us.”

“Mom, no, I’m not done yet. My mouth is still as dry as a mouthful of sand. The world is terribly hot.”

“When they aim, we run.”

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This pair was drinking in the late afternoon, on the east side of the last bay in the south lake just before the narrows. The doe seemed very aware of us, even though we were far off.

Deer, thin and hungry

On the drive up from downstate we saw deer feeding in cornfields where the snow is partly melted. Not just one or two deer, but dozens and dozens all trying to glean in fields already pretty picked over.

This was the scene on Long Lake in the early morning on March 15th. It was 20 degrees and the wind was blowing fiercely.

deer_crossingice_lowresThese four came from the area where the peninsula juts out and creates our little bay and headed across the lake to where reeds grow in the summer. No reeds today. In fact, nothing at all vegetative for deer to eat on the lake.The group paused around ice blocks left behind by fisherman. Nothing to eat there either.They headed to the narrows.

Winter’s last snowman

snowman_lowresThe March snow is wet. It’s the best packing snow of the year. This snowman practically rolled himself. Setting his midsection in place was tough. He’s mostly water, after all. Forgive his headgear. Some snowmen will let people put anything on their head and call it a hat. He’s wearing a keyhole scarf knitted of Malabrigo worsted, but he’s too stout of neck to use the keyhole.

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Four hungry deer browsed on the property for twenty minutes, mostly under the bird feeders. These two were the most bold. Or the most hungry. One mostly stood like a sentinel at the lake’s edge and browsed on our neighbor’s cedar tree. The herd eventually moved on, only to be replaced by three more deer. The newcomers nibbled on sunflower seeds. One walked up to the snowman and chewed for a bit on his left arm. Not any sustenance there. He tried to eat the pine cone buttons, but had to settle for just making off with a pine cone eye.

Deer crossing County Road 459

tentative_deer_lowresThis doe paused after two companions made it safely across County Road 459. Then she decided to bound out into the road just as Steve’s car was close by. She seemed to spot his car but proceeded anyway. After all, these creatures do not have many road savvy IQ points.

The doe,  Steve, and his Subaru Forester are none the worse for the close encounter.

In 2012, Michigan continued to be one of the top-ranked states for numbers of deer-car crashes. Only West Virginia, Iowa and South Dakota had us beat. Michigan drivers had a 1 in 72 chance of hitting a deer that year. Read more here, at the MIchigan Deer Crash Coalition website.

Remember, when there’s one there’s likely more than one. They are herd animals, after all. And the catch phrase is “don’t veer for deer.” Otherwise a property damage accident and a deer death can too easily turn into a bodily injury accident or even a people death.