Sunday, November 11, 2018

November 11, 2018: Bucks are Getting Active

Most of the smaller animals have their mating season in late winter or spring with their offspring being born or hatched several weeks later.  But the larger animals including moose and deer have much longer gestation periods, so they mate in the fall, again to give birth in the spring when food is plentiful.  (One interesting exception to this is the black bear which mates in June, but then employs something called "delayed implantation" so gestation starts around November with birth occurring in January, though the young won't leave the den until two or three months later, relying completely on the mother's milk during that period.)

The white-tail deer has a gestation period of just over 200 days, geared toward birth in late May or early June, so their mating period is right about now, and the bucks are busy marking their territory and rounding up their does.  The most visible signs of this are large scrapes bucks make in the forest floor where they scrape up leaves and soil and then mark the area with their scent using urine and the glands on their hind legs.
A large deer scrape in the middle of a trail

They tend to build these sites underneath branches - typically  hemlock in our area - and they will also scent these overhanging branches with the glands on their forehead.
This scrape has a common triangular shape where the buck was facing to the right

Also, if you look at the very top of the photograph below you will see where the buck has used its antlers to rub scent on the trunks of small hemlocks, scraping off the bark, adding further scent to the site.
Note the stripped bark on the skinny hemlocks at the top of the photo

I can imagine scented trees facilitating the buck's scent drifting through the forest with the wind, and the scented liquid absorbed by the soil lingering for days.  This behavior will alert both male and females that a buck has claimed this territory and the does within it as their own.  You might see these right on a trail as deer often take advantage of easy travel along these cleared paths through the woods.

The cooling weather has started to drive the birds migrating from Canada our way;  this week I saw two groups of hooded mergansers on Lake Wicwas, including one pair, and one group of two males courting a single female.
Male Hooded Merganser
And the female

Two males escorting a single female on the journey south

We haven't had any winter weather here in the Lakes Region yet, but 30 miles farther north it's starting to look frosty.  I took a hike up Mount Moosilauke last week, and there were sure signs of winter up at the 4800 foot summit.
North Kinsman from the south peak

Rime ice at the north summit

It was just a taste of what's to come.
Snow started at 3800' elevation

Finally, on this Veterans Day, a thank you to all those who served our country - especially you dad!

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