Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Getting along with the neighbors

Deer compete for everything in our yard -- apples, plums, blueberries, raspberries, peas, green beans and pretty much all flowers and vegetation. We've built Fort Knox around the precious blueberries and a token fence around the vegetable garden, but are conceding most of the rest.

That said, these two young Blacktail bucks are growing on me. They show up every evening around dark and are increasingly at ease with us. They were grazing by the garage the other evening when I hit the remote opener. The door opened with a wrenching screech, but all these guys did was raise their necks calmly and look around.

One thing I've learned from my friend, Craig Johnson, is that all animals have individual personalities and are quite capable of learning and building trust. In any group of animals, a few individuals will stand out as risk-takers and be the first to approach for a reward. Others are especially wary.  Given how we humans treat many wild creatures, wariness serves them well and is an obvious survival strategy.

These two young bucks seem particularly curious and not as wary as most.  When I walk toward them with the camera, sometimes they take a step or two toward me.  I get the feeling they're studying me as much, or more, than I'm studying them.  Craig's phenomenal success at building trust with individual birds, squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife in his yard is a reminder that we share the same space with the animal kingdom. If we like having them around on Whidbey Island, we might try a little tenderness, maintain some habitat for them and do what we can to reduce the stresses.

Last night Sue and I had just returned from a walk with Duncan when the deer moved in. They romped playfully and groomed each other, helped themselves to a patch of green grass, and stared when I approached with my big camera.

The two stay close together, their faces sometimes touching or inches apart. I'd been assuming they were siblings but now realize that's unlikely.  Black-tailed deer apparently are sociable only within their own sex. Upon reaching maturity at 16 - 18 months, a young buck leaves its family group and sets out to find a male bachelor group. At some point, of course, competitiveness gets a bit serious, but with our two young visitors it's all tenderness and socialization.

I like that. We're enjoying the neighbors.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting piece, Dan. We have about a half dozen deer who frequent our yard and we joke that they feel so comfortable here, we expect to drive up and see them sitting in the adirondack chairs. Now you've given me insight to why they feel so comfortable and trusting.

    Thank you!