Friday, January 18, 2013

Deer in the 'Hood

I startled a young couple just now. They were hanging out on our front steps, in the shadows of the scrub oak and juniper trees, camouflaged even against the bright snow. I was putting on my gloves, heading out for a walk, when suddenly they jumped up, bolted in opposite directions, and stood their respective ground leaving me between them in mid-stride. The buck was a young 2- or 4-point creature (depending on how you count—two prongs on each antler, making 4 points total); his doe-friend also looked like an adolescent, not quite two years old, perhaps.

I said hello and apologized for disturbing them, then made my way, slowly crunching snow underfoot while trying not to make any sudden movements. I gave the buck a minute to cross my path and reunite with his doe, then I made my way down the gravel driveway.
Deer in the back yard, Feb. 2012. Photo by Andi.
We often see deer in our yard—singly, in pairs, and sometimes whole family groupings. Recently we witnessed a challenge and fight between 2 large (8-point) bucks who faced off between the large granite boulders at the edge of our back patio. We have also seen a young buck courting a young doe, while another younger doe climbed up on one of the boulders, apparently to get a closer look at the ritual. When the light is just right, we catch the deer eyeing themselves, sometimes quite warily, sometimes nonchalantly, as they see their reflections in our sliding glass door, unaware of our presence on the other side of the pane.

The most amazing recent siting, however, was not in our yard, but a few streets away. The Scientist and I were out for a long circuit of the neighborhood to stretch our legs after too many hours spent indoors and at the computer. We turned the corner onto a narrow connector road, neither breaking our stride nor our conversation, when suddenly the Scientist grabbed my arm and said in a loud whisper, “Look!” We both stopped in the middle of the road. There to the left, among the cactus, tall grass, scrub oak, and juniper was a doe…no, two…no, three. Wait, there’s another doe, and another…. When our eyes finally adjusted to the scene, we counted ten doe—all of them standing quite still, some with their rumps to us, some facing us, none moving with the exception of some slow chewing. We continued walking, in silence and awe, catching a glimpse of number eleven, a buck, a little higher up the incline. What a harem he has!

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