Cascadia Wildlife Blog
News from the Wolverine Tracking Project and more
A Deer for all seasons
This month we are highlighting one of the common herbivores that visit our camera sites- deer! There are two native deer species in Oregon, each with two subspecies, and on Mt. Hood, we most frequently see the Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus). Their range extends from the Cascades to the coastal mountains, from California to northern British Columbia. They are slightly smaller and darker in appearance than their close relatives, the mule deer, which can also occasionally be found in the Mount Hood National Forest. As for habitat preference, they tend to live in denser coniferous and mixed-coniferous forests but are commonly seen near clear cuts and burns to nibble at new growth there.
Always wary and curious of their surroundings, they frequently find the cameras and move in to closely check them out like this one appears to be doing.
They are resident animals, so they do not make long migrations during wintertime, as some other species do, though they tend to move to lower elevations where it is easier to move about and find food. Their diets are hampered in these months with much less food availability and so end up consuming mostly woody plants including Douglas fir, western red cedar, red huckleberry, deer fern and lichens. As the snow accumulates on the mountain, we find less detections of deer at higher elevations.
It's clearly more challenging to get around in the snow and find enough to eat in winter for them.
Deer have a keen sense of sight, sound, and smell. Not only are they scanning the forest with their watchful eyes and large, mobile ears, they also have a keen sense of smell. This is key not only for detecting the presence of predators, it is also an important way to communicate with each other. Deer have several glands that produce scent and pheromones. The ones located on their metatarsals (outside of lower leg) produce an alarm scent, the tarsal (inside of hock) serves for recognition of others they know and the interdigital (between the toes) leaves their own scent trail as they walk.
This young buck takes a look around the forest. It is common for him to be on his own but he join up with others like him later in the year.
In the summertime, food is plentiful and their diet is largely grasses and forbs (non-woody flowering plants) and can also include blackberries, apples, salmonberry, salal, and maple. The explosion of new growth in the spring must be a welcome sight! They forage mostly at dawn and dusk, with a home range of around 3 square miles.
Two deer grazing on some fresh green new shoots in late spring!
They are typically solitary, but do form small groups of mothers with their young. Interestingly, groups of bachelor bucks also can form based on age class during spring or summer months. Fawns are usually born in late May to early June and twins are most common. Fawns weigh about 6-8 lbs. at birth and have no detectable scent for their first week, which keeps them safe. They will lose their signature spots by September, as they grow up.
We are thrilled to introduce our first fawns of the season! This doe is taking careful care of her twin fawns.
We are looking forward to seeing many more deer detections this summer season! These beautiful creatures are always a welcome sight. We hope you get a chance to explore the world we share with them. Maybe you will catch a glimpse, or at least see some sign of them around. They are, indeed, distinctive members of the forest community.