Black-tailed deer survive

Black-tailed deer survive, despite everything

TIMES columnist Liz Hancock regularly addresses issues of flora and fauna in the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows communities.

 Liz Hancock / Special to The TIMES

February 5, 2014 06:23 PM


Liz Hancock tackles the issues of flora and fauna in our community. She offers this illustration of a black-tailed deer, and the hoofprints people can expect to see left behind. 
Photograph by: Liz Hancock illustrations

This is the time of year that we see more of the cheeky Columbia black-tailed deer creeping through the forest edges or silently stealing the remaining leaves and plants from our gardens.

This prolific coastal deer is part of the landscape here in the Lower Mainland, but can be found far into the Interior and on most of the Pacific Islands as well. Similar to their cousins, the Sitka and the mule deer – in fact they are a sub-species of the same – the black-tailed deer shows no sign of being endangered, despite the heavy toll from predators such as the cougar, coyotes, bobcats, and, of course, man, this also includes death by road accidents. According to the Ministry of Environment, 45 to 70 per cent of the new fawns do not survive and the life span of a deer is only eight or 10 years, mostly due to hunting and the ever expanding road systems.

The black-tailed deer rely heavily on old growth forests during the cold months – in fact these areas are crucial to their survival. But here in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, the deer stay all year round. Sometimes the winter ranges of the black and mule deer overlap, and here they will interbreed, producing offspring with both characteristics.

They are good swimmers and identify each other from scent glands on their lower legs, which produce pheromones. They have lovely faces, with large ears rimmed in black and black tails with a pale rump patch. Their noses are more pointed than other deer, and this is a good way to identify them. They are also slightly darker brown than the mule deer, which mainly stay in the Interior areas of B.C. Males have a medium-sized horn rack, which they shed each year. They came originally from the southern part of America, spreading northwards on the corridors left by the receding ice approximately 10,000 years ago, and they still migrate through areas left open from logging and forest fires. Twins and triplets are not rare in this species, and if you come across a young baby with the delightful spotted coat, be careful Mom is not around, for she will defend her fawn to the point of doing injury.

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