Submitted by Don Doman.
People either love deer in their yards or they hate them. We are the love ’em variety. We enjoy watching them. It’s so relaxing. They let us feel closer to nature.
We’ve moved our plants up onto our deck so they don’t eat the tomato plants or flowers. They’ve only come onto our deck once. The next day I put up a sign offering venison sandwiches and they haven’t been on the deck since. Our yard offers blackberry bushes, dandelions, laurel, and deer especially delight in nibbling on our madrona tree. Deer like to browse and eat the growing tips of trees and shrubs.
Here in Pierce County the deer we see are blacktail deer. They range from Northern California and the west side of I-5 into British Columbia. They are called blacktail because when their tail in down it’s mostly showing black or dark brown. When up, it shows white. Whitetails are the species of Eastern Washington, Generally our deer have a home range of about one square mile, so we see the same deer all the time.
Deer breed during a the rutting season, which normally happens in November and December. Bucks compete for the right to breed. I’ve seen bucks locking their antlers with one another, but mostly what we see is the older, heavier bucks with bigger racks just kicking smaller bucks out of the way with the front hooves demonstrating the pecking order. We saw bucks and does circling our house at a gallop. They rounded the house three or four times. They also appear sometimes springing down our driveway. Normally, they just relax and scratch. We don’t see as many does as we used to, but every once and a while they come through.
We buy bags of apples from Grocery Outlet and roll them individually over to the deer. They prefer Granny Smith over Red Delicious. Once with a doe and her three fawns, she didn’t see where her apple went, so I gestured where it was several times and she finally understood and found her apple. Minutes later I realized I had just communicated with a deer. “Oh, my god. I’m a deer whisperer.” They don’t always listen, and their eyesight is more about movement, but they have a keen sense of smell.
Since their home range is so small our deer truly belong to the neighborhood. Tom Heavey, just a block away, reports via Facebook when they visit him. We see the deer going across the street (climbing stairs) to visit other homes. I’ve had neighbors stop in and ask to visit our backyard to take photos of our deer. Once deer have eaten they usually lie down and chew their cud. They space themselves out. Usually the bucks are about twenty feet apart. The oldest and biggest buck has first choice of what spot he wants. If it’s a mixed group, I’ve seen does get their own way . . . it’s kind of like life.