Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) are a sub-species of Mule Deer and we are privileged to have a herd living inside Sunnyside Acres.
Deer are browsers, meaning they feed on the tips of tree branches and other tender vegetation. During the winter and early spring, they feed on Douglas-fir, Western Red Cedar, Red Huckleberry, Salal, Deer Fern, and lichens growing on trees. Late spring to fall, they consume grasses, blackberries, apples, Fireweed, Pearly Everlasting, forbs (small flowering plants), Salmonberry, and maples. Residents living along the forest’s perimeter will often spot these shy animals browsing in their gardens with roses being one of their favourite foods.
The mating or 'rutting' season occurs during November and early December. Bucks can be observed running back and forth across roads in the pursuit of does. After the rut, bucks tend to hide and rest. They suffer broken antlers, wounds and have lost weight just before the hardest time of year – winter. Bucks drop their antlers between January and March. Antlers on the forest floor provide a source of calcium and other nutrients to other forest inhabitants. Bucks re-grow their antlers beginning in April through to August.
The gestation period for does is six to seven months, with fawns being born in late May and into June. Twins are very common, although young does often have only single fawns. Triplets can also occur where food is plentiful. Fawns weigh 3 to 4 kg and have no scent for the first week or so. This enables the mother to leave the fawn hidden while she goes off to browse and replenish her body after giving birth. She must eat enough to produce enough milk to feed her fawns as well as prepare for winter. Although does are excellent mothers, fawn mortality rate is 45 to 70%. Does are very protective of their young and humans are viewed as predators.
Deer communicate with the aid of scent and pheromones from several glands located on the lower legs. The metatarsal (outside of lower leg) glands produce an alarm scent, the tarsal (inside of hock) glands serve for mutual recognition, and the interdigital (between the toes) glands leave a scent trail when deer travel. Deer have excellent sight and smell. Their large ears can move independently of each other and pick up any unusual sounds that may signal danger.
At dawn, dusk and moonlit nights, deer are seen browsing on the roadside. Mosaics of wooded areas and grassy open areas, like golf courses, attract deer. Caution when driving is prudent because often as one deer crosses, another one or two follow.