Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

How Photographers Effect Wildlife. Part 1, Deer

The very act of observing something changes it, and wildlife is no exception. Take deer for example. This is a tender time for them. The does are having babies, the bucks are growing antlers, and everybody is shedding.

So here's terrified embarrassment:

"NO-o-o!! Nobody can see me like this!"

Boys can be so sensitive, and photographers can be so cruel.

Does have lots of responses. Like the butt shot:

"Hah! Silly photographer will go away if I just give her a butt shot. If that doesn't work then Grandma Doe up the road will kick her into next week."

Yep. I left the scene.

Next a doe responded to my presence with illogical avoidance:

"If I hide behind myself then you can't see me."

Hopeful distraction:

"Look! What is that over there?"

And the direct approach:

"Go away! You can come back in a couple months when I've shed out!"

I think that I really crossed the line. Does don't yell very often.

Then there is disgusted resignation:

"It's not bad enough that I'm shedding, you just have to take a picture when I'm also ankle deep in slime? No respect. Well, I guess I best just get on with it, and you, stupid photographer, can just prove that you're shameless."

Gosh, should I have held back on publishing this photo?

And finally there's quiet self-restraint:

Aw-w, so sweet. Babies can be so wise. This silent baby was left untouched. Human scent can cause a doe to reject her fawn. I used a long lens so that I didn't have to get too close and only stayed a few moments. Mama Doe is out foraging and will be back soon.

Next: Bears.

Wishing you fun observations each day,

Alaska Beachcomber

More lighthearted posts with Southeast Alaska deer:

Deer Moms Embarrass Their Kids, Too

Doe in the Headlights

And lots of animal posts: Alaskan Critters Menu



The Babies Are Here!

Today we saw one of the first fawns of the season! This newborn is on Wrangell Island. Mamma Doe was keeping her baby on the dirt road so that it could get it's new legs all working together.

She jumped off of the road momentarily when we startled her. She turned quickly, jumped back onto the road, and collected up her little one.

Then it was time for dinner.

After which Mom showed the fawn how to clean it's face up.

Mamma Doe turned her back for just one second...

...and the fawn made a break for it.

In it's first act of open defiance the little rascal headed right for the human, and Mom wasn't happy. That fawn was working up a pretty good head of steam with those spindly legs. I had the long lens on, but the fawn looked like it was going to keep coming. I gently scuffed my foot on the gravel. Baby stopped, Mom checked Baby for damage, and then she shot me that look. That "You know what you did!" look.

In the brief gestures of deer language this was pretty emphatic. I've been told! We wanted to get the truck past them safely, though, so I talked in a soft voice and explained the situation. I don't think that deer speak Human, but I do think that they have a pretty good sense of a person's intent. We all walked slowly down the road, me trailing at a fair distance, to find an easy place for Baby to step well off to the side.

What child can resist a mud puddle along the way?

Once the kiddo headed for the brush where there was a steep ditch. Mom Doe knows her territory, and she was having none of that.

The ear tug stopped the fawn in its tracks and it was a little off balance.  Mom gave it a quick supporting shoulder nudge.

This doe is such an attentive and careful mother. She licked her baby often, nursed it twice during our walk, and was firm when necessary.

Just a little further down the road there was a turnoff to the left. I faded right, and the deer walked out onto the side road. My sweetheart started the truck and picked me up. Mamma Doe and her baby stayed there as we drove past, and we smiled.

Wishing you smiles, too,

Alaska Beachcomber

P.S. This determined baby deer is not for petting. Doe's may reject a fawn that has been handled.


Enjoy more Southeast Alaska animals in the Alaskan Critters index.

Bucks in Velvet

Over the course of the summer male deer grow bones out of their head. The boneheads might be on the other end of the rifle, though, having just spent the price of a small car to outfit themselves to go hunt down some free meat.

Okay, I jest.

Hunting season opens soon, and there are guys around here counting the hours. The bucks are still in velvet, haven't really fattened up yet, and the weather is too warm to hang a deer up to age the meat, but that is not going to stop the vast majority of hunters and huntresses interested in some red meat to pack into the freezer for winter. Me included.

This young Sitka blacktail buck (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) will be a forked horn if those antlers get a chance to finish growing.

Antlers are the fastest growing bone in the animal world, but our little Sitka blacktail deer here in Southeast Alaska don't have big, heavy, trophy racks like mule deer or whitetails. But then the bucks only average 120 pounds....in the round.

Yearling bucks in Southeast Alaska are usually either "buttons" or "spikes."

This button buck may grow into his ears in a few years.

And when this guy grows up he won't have to take any grief off of his sister.

Twins hang together for a year or more, and sometimes get on each others' case just like kids. But they kiss and make nice, too.

Spikes have two neat little antlers poking out of their head. Usually.

Elliot here is going to have a tough and confusing season.

As those antlers grow under their layer of velvet-covered skin the does become very interesting.

And the chase is on.

I have been seeing bucks and does paired up for a month now. Of course relationships may change as daylight hours decrease, the bucks flood with testosterone, and their velvet is shed off to reveal sharp, burnished tools for competition.

Right now, though, the the antler structure is growing fast, and isn't strong yet. As those antlers reach their full size for the year the bone will fill in and harden.

This wary pair hadn't quite shed out yet.

This buck kept moving so that he was looking over his back on one side, then the other. It is a good defensive move, giving him the ability to take off without having to turn around, but he looked like he was trying to hide behind his butt.

But then a salmonberry bush looked too tasty to pass up.

You just keep munching Mr. Buck

You are going to need every bit of fat you can put on to get through the rut and winter.

This guy is not sure about which pest is worse - the photographer or the horsefly on his nose.

Such sleek, majestic creatures!

But there are exeptions...


Alaska Beachcomber