June 19, 2013

Wildlife Wednesday: Deer

Deer are mammals that belong to the family Cervidae and are members of the order Artiodactyle, which means that they have hoofs with an even number of toes.  There are many species in the deer family, including various types of deer, moose, elk (wapiti), caribou, and reindeer. Some deer species are social, but others are solitary.  The biggest living member of the deer family is the moose (weighing about 800 kg); the smallest is the Andean Pudu (weighing about 10 kg). 
Credit: Bing.com
Credit: Bing.com
The earliest deer appeared during the late Oligocene Epoch, roughly 35 million years ago. The "Irish elk" Megaloceros was a large, prehistoric deer that had antlers that were 11 feet (3.3 m) wide.
Deer can be found around the world. They are native to all continents except for Australia and Antarctica. There are about 100 types of deer, including the whitetail deer, reindeer, elk, moose, mule deer, blacktail deer and caribou.
Male deer are called bucks, bulls, stags or harts. Female deer are called does, cows or hinds. Young deer are called fawns or calfs.
Deer can adapt well to just about any habitat. They prefer to live in "edge" habitats. Edges are human-made or natural habitat breaks, for instance from woods to croplands. They will use the woodlands for cover and shelter and the open land to graze in. In northern latitudes, deer may live in different areas in the summer and winter months. These areas can be as far as 30 miles apart.
Deer are the only animals that have antlers. They are the fastest growing living tissue on earth. Antlers are usually only found on males. In some species, like caribou, you will also find them on females. Moose have the largest antlers. Antlers grow from spring until fall. While growing, antlers are covered with a soft tissue known as velvet. This tissue contains a network of nerves and blood vessels and is very sensitive. In the fall, the velvet is shed and the antlers harden. In the winter, the antlers are shed. Antlers should not be confused with horns. Horns are never shed and continue to grow throughout the animal's life. If they are broken, they won't grow back.
 Deer have a great sense of hearing. They have a lot of muscles attached to their ears which allow them to turn their ears in any direction, without moving their heads. They can hear higher frequencies of sound than humans.
The brown coat of the deer provides great camouflage in the woodlands. By standing still, they can go undetected by a passing predator. Fawns have a reddish-brown color covered with white spots, which help camouflage them and disappear when they are 3-4 months old. In the fall, deer will shed their summer coat and receive a much thicker winter coat.
Deer have their eyes on the sides of their head, giving them a 310 degree view. This wide view does make it hard for deer to focus on a single point. Deer have a good night vision, which is useful in the early morning and near dusk.
Deer have small teeth in the front of the bottom jaw, which they use for tearing and breaking apart food. They have no teeth in the front of the top jaw. Instead they have a hard palate, which is used in much the same way as teeth. In the back of the mouth deer have molars, canines and incisors, which are used for chewing.
Deer have an excellent sense of smell, which allows them to detect predators from a long distance away. Deer lick their nose to keep it moist, which helps odor particles stick to it, improving their sense of smell. The nose also plays a role in communication. Deer produce scents with glands located on their head, legs and hooves. These scents provide information to other deer about their gender, social status, physical condition and whether an area is safe.
Deer usually stay in the same area called a home range. These areas are shared by related females who form matriarchies and that exclude adult males.
The breeding season for deer occurs between October and January. This period is called the "rut". During the "rut" the necks of the male deer will swell to more than double their normal diameter and their antlers will have lost their velvet. This will prepare them for fights with other buck to determine dominance and breeding rights. They will crash antlers, but usually don't get hurt. During this period, males are very nervous and constantly active, which can cause them to wander into places where you would normally not find them, like residential areas. Gestation is about 200 days and in the spring the female will give birth to one to three fawns.
Fawns are protected by a lack of scent. Enemies cannot smell them. Fawns are able to stand and walk shortly after birth. The mother keeps them hidden in bushes and checks up on them about 6 times a day to feed them. Young deer stay with their mothers for 1-2 years.
 When deer feel threatened, they will raise their tail to warn other deer.
Bucks mark their territory by making scrapes on the land with their hooves and by removing bark from trees with their antlers, called a "buck rub".
Deer are herbivores. They eat grass, leaves, stems, shoots, berries, herbs, acorns, mushrooms, wild fruit and agriculture crops like corn and soy beans.
Deer are ruminants (cud chewers) and have a four-chambered stomach. Other ruminants include cattle, goats and antelope. Deer start eating in the morning. They hardly chew their food which goes into the first stomach. While they rest, the food will move to the second stomach and form little balls. Now the food is brought back to the mouth and chewed. This chewed food goes into the third and fourth stomachs.
In the winter months, when less food is available, deer will become less active. By slowing down, they can get by eating only about one third of the food they normally eat. They will also hang out in the woods more to escape the cold winds.

Deer are born with four baby teeth and develop baby incisors and premolars in their first months. Their adult teeth come in and replace the baby teeth when they are about 18 months old. You can guess the age of deer by looking at the type of teeth they have and by how worn these teeth are. Each year, molars loose about one millimeter of height.  The life expectancy of deer is 20 years.
The many faces of the Deer:
The Caribou
Credit: Bing.com
The Caribou is a medium-sized member of the deer family that is closely related to the reindeer. The genus and species of the Caribou are Rangifer tarandus.  This deer is found in Canadian tundra, forests, and mountains. Many subspecies of caribou migrate in huge herds across the tundra, traveling over 800 miles (1290 km) each year. Caribou have a life span of about 15 years in the wild.  Anatomy: The Caribou is about 4 feet (1.2 m) tall at the shoulder and is about 6 feet (1.8 m) long. Unlike most other types of deer, both bulls (males) and cows (females) have antlers. The antlers are shed each year and regrow. The Caribou have very wide hooves and a broad muzzle.  Behavior: The Caribou is an herbivore (a plant-eater) who spends most of the day eating grass, leaves, and other plant material.
 The Elk:
Credit: Bing.com
The elk, also called the red deer or wapiti (meaning "white rump" in the Shawnee language), is a large, hoofed, noisy, and social member of the deer family.  Elk are found in open mountain forests and valleys in western North America. They have a life span of about 8 to 12 years in the wild.  Anatomy: The elk is up to about 4 to 5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) tall at the shoulder. They weigh from 325 to 1,100 pounds (147-500 kg). Males are much larger than females. Only bulls (males) have branching antlers (which are shed and re-grow each year) and a shaggy mane. The largest elk antlers are about 4 ft (1.2 m) long. Elk have hoofed, two-toed feet, long legs, thick brown fur, and a large body.  Behavior: The elk is an herbivore (a plant-eater) and a spend a lot of time browsing. Elk eat grasses, shrubs, tree leaves, and herbs. Elk are ruminants (they store partly-chewed food, and later regurgitate it and thoroughly chew it).  Predators: The grizzly bear, mountain lion, coyote, and man are the main predators of the elk.  Classification: Kingdom Animalia (animals), Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Order Artiodactyla, Suborder Ruminantia, Family Cervidae (deer, elk, moose, etc.), Subfamily Cervinae (elk, fallow deer, etc.), Genus Cervus, Species C. elaphus.
The Moose:
Credit: Bing.com
The moose, the largest member of the deer family (family Cervidae), is a large animal with long legs and distinctive antlers. The front legs are longer than the rear legs.  Moose are taller than horses and can measure up to 7.5 feet (2.3 m) tall at the shoulder. Adult females (called cows) grow to be up to 800 pounds (360 kg); adult males (called bulls) are from 900 to 1,400 pounds (410 - 620 kg). The largest moose are found in Alaska, where specimens up to 1,400 pounds (520 kg) have been found.  Moose vary in color from almost black to very light brown. During the winter they turn a grayish color, helping to camouflage them in the snow-covered landscape. The long legs of the moose are lighter in color than the body. Moose antlers grow to be up to 5 feet (1.5 m) long or more. Each year, the old antlers are shed; new antlers emerge the following spring.  Emerging antlers are tan to brown velvet. As they mature and the velvet peels off, the underlying antler is white. The moose rubs the antlers against tree bark to speed up the peeling process, and the antlers turn tan to brown. Moose have very good senses of hearing and smell but not very good eyesight. The Moose's long legs allow it to run at a very fast gallop. Moose are also very good swimmers. Moose are mostly solitary animals. The only strong bond is between a mother and her young.  Moose live in cool-climate forests near water (lakes, ponds, rivers, or swampy land).  Moose are found in North America (Canada, Alaska, and the northern United States) and also in northern Europe (in Siberia, Sweden, Norway, and the Baltic region).  Moose eat grass, leaves, and aquatic weeds. In the winter, they eat mostly twigs and conifer leaves. The grizzly bear and man are the main predators of the moose. Mating is aided by deep calls and powerful scents. The gestation period of the moose is about 8 months after a fall mating. One to three calves are born at a time during the spring or summer. The calves are weaned at five months of age but remain with the mother for one to two years, until new new calves are born. Moose reach maturity at two years of age. Until recently, moose populations were decreasing and were threatened with extinction because of over-hunting and habitat destruction. Moose are now recovering somewhat.  Classification: Kingdom Animalia :(the animals). Phylum: Chordata .  Subphylum: Vertebrata (animals with backbones). Class Mammalia: (warm-blooded animals with hair and mammary glands). Order Artiodactyla :(even-toed or even-hoofed animals). Family: Cervidae (deer). Genus: Alces .Species: alces.
The Reindeer:
Credit: Bing.com
The reindeer (also called the caribou) is a medium-sized member of the deer family. The genus and species of the reindeer are Rangifer tarandus. Reindeer are strong runners and very good swimmers. This deer is found in Arctic tundra, forests, and mountains in Russia, Northern China, Canada, Alaska, and Scandinavia. Some reindeer migrate in huge herds from the coastal Arctic to the tundra. Reindeer have a life span of about 10 years in the wild. Domesticated Reindeer: Reindeer were domesticated in northern Eurasia roughly 2,000 years ago. Today, reindeer are herded by many European and Asian Arctic people.  Anatomy: The reindeer is about 4 feet (1.2 m) tall at the shoulder and is about 6 feet (1.8 m) long. Unlike most other types of deer, both bulls (males) and cows (females) have antlers. The antlers are shed each year and regrow. Reindeer have very wide hooves, a broad muzzle, and thick brown fur. The thick fur traps air, which insulates the reindeer from the cold and helps the reindeer float in water. Behavior: The reindeer is an herbivore (a plant-eater) who spends most of the day eating. During the winter, reindeer eat lichens and moss; in warmer months, they also eat leaves and herbs.

The White-Tailed Deer:
The White-Tailed Deer is a long-legged, fast-moving mammal. The genus and species of the White-Tailed Deer are Odocoileus virginianus. This deer is found over most of North and Central America and northern parts of South America. It lives in deciduous forests, conifer forests, rainforests, grasslands, farm land, marshes, and even deserts. It has a life span of about 9 to 12 years.  Anatomy: White-Tailed Deer are about 3 to 3 1/2 feet (0.9 to 1 m) tall at shoulder. Bucks (males) weight up to 400 pounds (180 kg), does (females) weigh up to 200 pounds (90 kg). Fawns (babies) are usually born in May or June. Only bucks have antlers, which are branched; the antlers are shed each year, and later regrow.  Behavior: Deer are shy herbivores (plant-eaters) who spend most of the day eating leaves, grass, bark, acorns, and other plant material. Does often travel in small herds with their fawns. 

What amazing animals:

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