Saturday, August 22, 2009

Deer, deer, deer...gator!

A quick maintenance-related spin around the 1.75-mile boardwalk that winds through the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp at Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest did not reveal the presence of many bird species. We did spy a group of four juvenile White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) wading up a channel just behind a River Otter (Lutra canadensis).

It's hot and humid, even in the swamp, and most of the animals wisely rest during the warmest periods of the day. We came across several White-tailed Deer. Some does had fawns in tow, including a set of twins, while some were alone, possibly with their fawns hidden nearby. While still small, fawns cannot escape danger as easily as their mothers, so does tend not to bed down next to their fawns. If the doe is detected, as in our images, she can move away from the danger and likely prevent her offspring from being discovered. Young deer may stay with their mothers for up to a year.

Although the large canine and feline predators have been eliminated from the ecosystem, young deer can still fall prey to bobcats, foxes, and coyotes. Additionally, it is deer hunting season again and hunting dogs have yet to master the reading of property boundary signs. Fawns can be separated from their mothers or become exhausted from the chase.

Whether young or old, deer always need to be wary about crossing deeper water in the swamp. Some of the "logs" in the water are watching and they've got a mouthful of teeth!

Images by Mark Musselman

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