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Vol. LXII, No. 19
September 17, 2010

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A Warning About Deer Mating Season

A buck, perhaps considering mating season, keeps watch near Bldg. 49 in early July.

A buck, perhaps considering mating season, keeps watch near Bldg. 49 in early July.

While the temperature may not suggest that fall and winter will soon be here, there are other indicators that prove autumn is here now: Our resident deer herd is becoming more active with the coming breeding season and NIH’ers need to be mindful while walking and driving across the campus.

Approximately two or three deer were enclosed on campus in 2005 when the 8-foot perimeter security fence was completed. The population is now estimated to be about 7 adults with possibly 8 fawns born last May.

The upcoming rut from early October through late November will cause the deer to become more active especially from late afternoon to early morning. During that time they may be found anywhere across the campus from open lawns and meadows to more wooded or forested areas.

The Office of Research Facilities has erected several Deer Crossing Warning signs along roads. Be alert while driving, especially between dusk and dawn. Deer do not stop, look and listen when about to cross a road. As a result, there are thousands of deer-car collisions during this time across the metro area. An injured animal can be extremely dangerous.

During the mating season, the bucks (males with the antlers) will compete for does (no antlers). Bucks may be seen jousting and head butting to determine dominance. Mature males weigh between 150 and 250 pounds. Bucks have been known to become aggressive towards people. Do not approach any deer at this time of year.

One to possibly three fawns will be born to a mature doe next May. Two is most usual. Fawns have white spots on their coats and can walk and even run within hours after birth. However, they usually lay still in the vegetation unless disturbed. Does can be very protective of their young and can charge anyone getting too close to a baby. Be aware when walking off paved areas and retreat or detour around any deer encountered. Do not attempt to find a hiding fawn and do not touch or pick one up thinking it is abandoned. The mother is nearby.

Female fawns will stay with their mothers for up to 2 years. Young males will venture out after one year. Males will begin to grow a new set of antlers starting in June and will shed them in January. The size of the rack of antlers usually indicates the age and health of a dominant male.

Growing antlers are covered in “velvet,” a blood-enriched protective coating that dries and begins to slough off as antlers mature. Bucks rub their antlers on small trees to remove the itchy velvet. These scratch marks where bark is removed are called “buck rubs.”

Another concern is that deer may carry both deer and dog ticks. Deer ticks, in particular, may harbor Lyme disease. It is not known if any ticks are present on campus but it’s better not to venture into high grass areas where the insects are most likely to be found.

Following a few simple tips will keep humans and wildlife safe on campus.

The author is NIH’s longtime landscape architect. NIHRecord Icon

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