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Ross Hotchkiss Jim Rogers ~ August 1, 2010

Ruminating about Cervids

The San Mateo peninsula supports a significant deer population and, judging from observation plus comments from others, the number is growing. An abundance of water and cover but few predators results in an expanding population. Deer eat a wide variety of grasses and browse; plants, nuts, acorns, fruits, and berries, all plentiful here. However, as any homeowner within grazing range will tell you, deer also find most ornamental plants quite tasty.
Grazing on Sorrel
Contrary to what many who suffer unwanted pruning may believe, deer also feed heavily on certain wild fauna; witness the well worn paths around the edges of plots of chaparral growth in local parks, Edgewood or Atascadero for example.
Browse Line, Edgewood Park
Individual and herd behavior changes according to the season. One interesting phenomenon is the gathering of males during the summer. The largest group I’ve counted had eleven in various stages of maturity. Once, while on a run along the Crystal Springs Trail just east of the Filoli meadow, I noticed three bucks standing in neck high grass watching intently. Being in a conversational mood I called out, “What are you looking at?” To my surprise, four more antlered heads popped up as if inquiring, “What’s his problem?”
Still On Watch

Though not considered dangerous, In the US, deer cause more human deaths than any other wild animal; the proximate cause being collision with auto. Autumn, the rutting season, is the most dangerous time. Then bucks tune out most anything not having to do with does. In the fall, if you have to slow down to let a doe cross the road, expect a buck or two to be trailing (late spring watch for fawns following their moms). *

The rut can be a hazard to hikers. While on a trail run I suddenly came upon a courting pair of young deer. The doe immediately dropped off the trail a few yards and stopped.

The buck started to leave, but teenage love proved stronger than fear. Turning around, he lowered his rack (all four short points) and started walking deliberately toward me! I started back pedaling, all the while voicing my disinterest in his girlfriend. Fortunately, coming abreast of the doe, he was drawn to her side. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out whether I had been threatened or challenged.

After Note: Apparently the predator balance has been altered. Several weeks ago, I was up in Edgewood Park in the early morning, planning to take some deer photos. However, the usually plentiful deer, cottontails, and jackrabbits were nowhere to be seen. Conversely, there were multiple deposits of lion scat, (photo available upon request). This was the same week the Sheriff’s office published the flier shown below and the SF Chronicle reported sightings in Montara and Burlingame. (You can find more info on dealing with lions and other wild critters in Masters on the Trail.)

  

Jack Stays Alert

*Caution Sign scanned from Central Sierra Seasons Magazine
Jim Rogers is a long time peninsula resident who enjoys rambling about and observing our outdoors. He is also the author of the book, Masters on the Trail: A Backpack Primer for Folks over Fifty, available at Redwood Trading Post, and on the Web at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. You can reach him at oldrbakpakr@gmail.com .
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