November 24, 2014

Dappled Beauty

If you're from almost anywhere east of the Mississippi, you may have noticed that, unlike back home, south Florida is not overrun with deer eating gardens, endangering road traffic, or carrying Lyme disease. Nature is more in balance here, in large measure because we still have the alpha predator, the panther, along with alligators, bobcats and now even some coyotes checking overpopulation of deer.

White-tailed deer (Odoncoileus virginianus) in south Florida are small-about 90 pounds for a female and about 150 pounds for a male. The color varies from reddish to almost gray, but all have the distinctive white-flag undertail which, when raised, signals danger and also helps a fawn follow its mother.

One or two spotted, reddish fawns are born, usually in February. They start nibbling greens after about three weeks, and are weaned at four months as they lose their spots. Does leave their fawns hidden in vegetation and only visit to nurse once or twice a day. If you find one, leave it alone. It has not been abandoned. Mom will return with milk.

Deer are graceful runners, great leapers and excellent swimmers, making them well adapted to their Florida habitat, which includes not only mixed woodlands, but swamps and marshes as well. And they're also surprisingly vocal, with a large vocabulary of snorts, stomps, bleats, nursing whines and grunts along with the visual tail-flag signal.