Whitetail Body Language: Why Does Box with Their Feet

 

does boxing

Our friend Zach sent us this great cam picture a few years ago of two does squaring off. Notice how the other girls are standing around and staring, urging them on. A deer fight is pretty much like a people fight!

Why do does do this? Texas Parks & Wildlife says it better than I could on their page about whitetail body language:    

Female deer also establish a peck order and display aggressive behavior. Does, like bucks, use the ear drop, hard look, and sidle body language. However, since they don’t have antlers, they use their front feet to determine their dominance. If the preliminary body-language threats are not effective, the dominant doe lunges at her adversary and then strikes out with one or both front fee. As a last resort, the fighting does stand up on their hind legs and slash out at each other with both front feet. Their sharp hooves are wicked weapons, and the does do not bluff or fight mock battles.

Georgia: 2 Big-Nose Bullwinkle Bucks

Here at Big Deer Blog we’ve become fascinated by whitetails with unusually big noses, and we’ve committed to building the biggest database of these unusual deer that have been shot across North America.

“Bullwinkle” syndrome was first discovered around 2005.  The few scientists who have examined deer with swollen snouts say the condition results from chronic inflammation of tissue in the nose, mouth and upper lip. All the cases studied by researchers have shown similar colonies of bacteria in the inflamed tissues.

How deer acquire Bullwinkle syndrome is unknown. The affliction doesn’t appear to be fatal to the deer, but there are many unknowns.

Bullwinkle syndrome is very rare.

We’ve documented big-nose bucks from Michigan to Minnesota to Alabama and other states. These are the first ones we’ve reported on from Georgia.

georgia big nose ty 2015

Via Twitter Ty Dickey sent me the info on this Bullwinkle he shot in Washington County, Georgia during the 2015 season:

We had pictures of him from ’13 and ’14. Bullwinkle’s snout was very pronounced originally, but once he got healthier (we started an intensive management program on the land) it wasn’t as noticeable. I started updating Lindsay Thomas at QDMA and Charlie Killmaster at Georgia DNR, and they asked if we’d allow the DNR to have the deer if harvested. We did so and it’s my understanding they determined there were no health issues with the deer except the snout.

Bullwinkle weighed 240 lbs. when harvested, and that was way down from pre-rut pics that year. He was aged at 5.5. He was the dominant buck on the property and visited every feeder regularly. We’ve seen no other issues with any other deer and the herd is extremely healthy.

Health-wise this is typical with the other big-nose deer we’ve reported on. Still, while the deer may act and look fine, except for the engorged snout, you should not eat the meat until more is known about this syndrome.

Come to find out, Ty’s buck was the second-known Bullwinkle ever shot in Georgia.  Luther Covington killed the third-known one in Irwin County, also in 2015.

georgia big nose luther

DNR biologist Charlie Killmaster saw this buck too and said, “This is a very classic case of the Bullwinkle disease. It’s exceedingly rare.”

A necropsy was performed on Luther’s deer, and it was diagnosed with the Bullwinkle disease caused by a bacterial infection around the muzzle that leads to the swollen appearance. The actual bacterium that causes this condition is extremely difficult to identify and therefore still has not been detected.

Like Ty’s deer, Luther’s buck was big-bodied and weighed more than 200 pounds.

Biologists know that Ty’s and Luther’s Bullwinkles were bucks, but it’s unclear what the sex of Georgia’s first big-nose deer was. Thus, it’s unclear if the disease will affect does as it does bucks.

The fact that scientists were able to examine both these big-nose Georgia bucks is excellent! On the off-chance you shoot one a doe or buck with a swollen snout, contact your state DNR immediately. Save the head for a biologist to examine so we can learn more about these rare and interesting deer.

If you or any one you know has shot a big-nose deer, or maybe has a trail-cam picture of one, let me know so I can add it to the database.

Whitetail Dispersal: How and Where Button Bucks Find Home Ranges

button buckIn the early 2000s researchers with Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences captured and radio-collared 543 bucks, 454 of which were less than 1 year old when captured in the winter. Of particular interest: How and where the young bucks would “disperse” in the summer and fall.

In this Deer-Forest blog post, the researchers explained: Dispersal is a one-time movement from a natal (where born) home range to a different adult home range. For our research (and most studies) we say an animal disperses if there is no overlap between natal and adult home ranges.

So what did they find?

*About 75% of the bucks dispersed as 1-year-olds. Half the dispersal occurred in spring (May-June) and the rest in early autumn (September-October).

*The average dispersal distance for a buck was about 5 miles, but one yearling went 25 miles!

*The dispersal process is fast and furious process. Half the bucks dispersed to their new home range in less than 12 hours, and almost all of them reached their new home in 24 hours.

Some more findings are fascinating!

They had GPS collars on 9 young males and were able to obtain locations every 2.5 hours. On a scale of 0 (random movement) to 10 (straight line) these bucks scored an 8.1. In other words, when the dispersal bug hits them, most yearling bucks move quickly and in a fairly straight line to the new home range where they will spend their lives.

More cool info: The researchers found that in the ridge and valley region of central Pennsylvania where the study occurred, deer are likely to disperse parallel to the ridges. Also, roads and rivers have an impact. A deer is more likely to disperse away from a road and more likely to stop his dispersal movement before crossing a road big or small.

Finally, the researchers note that if you see a button buck on your property next month, there is a 75% chance he’ll be gone by this fall’s archery season. Conversely, if you see a young buck with his first set of antlers in the archery season, there is a 75% chance he came from somewhere else, 5 or more miles away.

How Spring Floods Affect Deer

floods deerThis week a low-pressure system has brought steady rain and localized flooding to the Carolinas, and today it’s moving up the East Coast. Late April and especially May is also when floods are common along the Mississippi and other rivers and streams in the Midwest.

How does all this spring rain and flooding affect the whitetail deer?

The good news, biologists say that rising floodwaters of river and creeks won’t kill many if any adult deer, though it will displace the animals for days and perhaps weeks. But the deer will filter back into their habitats and core areas once the waters recede.

While pregnant does will move out of rising water now and for the next few weeks, the primary concern for deer herds in and around flood zones occurs later on in May and in early June, when the does start dropping fawns.

“But fawn survival in flood plains is typically very high, even during flood years,” says noted whitetail scientist Grant Woods.

“To cause any significant problems in a herd, the water levels would have to rise very rapidly and be timed when the peak of fawn births occur, and before the fawns are mobile. This is a narrow window of time. Rivers rarely rise that quickly on that timing, and does are excellent mothers!”

Another and perhaps more serious concern is where floodwaters might affect preferred fawning cover. “When does are forced to fawn in adjoining croplands or woods where there isn’t as much cover predation on the fawns can increase. But overall, I’m not worried about the fawns and the deer herds in a normal flood zone.”

How Deer Antlers Grow

July28,2005StickerBuckRiverBankVelvet010(2)

In April, as the days continue to get longer and daylight increases, new antlers begin to grow from buds that form on the pedicels on a buck’s head. Typically within a month, main beams and brow tines begin to sprout and split off. A month or so later, in early June, second and third tines will form.

Throughout early summer, the fledgling racks grow fast and furious. Antler tissue is the fastest growing tissue known to man. Beams and tines may grow a quarter-inch or more per day, the process driven by a buck’s hormones and the photoperiod of the days.

According to Missouri scientist Dr. Grant Woods, a buck’s rack will show most of its points by mid-June, though tine length is typically less than half developed at this time. Most of the beam length will grow by late June.

Those are the general rules, but Grant points out that the growth of individual racks can vary. “Some bucks will show a lot of antler growth early, while others seem to add a bunch to their rack during July,” he says. The photo above was taken on July 28 a few years ago.

Click for more interesting facts about summer antlers.

In early August antlers begin to morph from soft and pliable to hardened bone. “A buck’s antlers will change from looking swollen or bulbous at the tips of the tines to a more normal diameter,” notes Woods. “Once this change in appearance occurs the buck won’t add much beam or tine growth.”

By mid-August most of the antler growth for the year is done. Sometime between September 1 and 15 bucks shed the velvet. The cue for antler hardening and velvet shedding is the change in photoperiod caused by decreasing daylight and increasing darkness, which results in a significant increase in the bucks’ testosterone.

Velvet shedding typically takes only a couple of hours, though it is not uncommon to see a deer walking around for day or two with bloody velvet tatters. Bucks have been known to turn their heads and peel or even eat the dry velvet off their new racks.

Mid-September on, the tree rubbing and antler-polishing begin. With their new crowns gleaming, mature bucks are ready and willing to breed the does for the next three months, until the days grow shorter and their testosterone begins to fade and the fascinating antler cycle begins all over again.