The Animal Answer Guide
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Many friends and colleagues throughout the years have been instrumental in our interest and enthusiasm in working on various aspects of deer biology. Feldhamer is especially grateful to Joe Chapman, who hired him fresh out of graduate school in 1977 to work at the Appalachian Environmental Lab, University of Maryland, on the...
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My graduate work was on small desert rodents, so naturally my first job with the University of Maryland involved something quite different: studying introduced Japanese sika deer in Dorchester County, along the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. My love affair with sika deer has continued. In those early years...
1. Introducing Deer
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In general, deer can be defined most easily as mammals with antlers. Antlers are the single characteristic that people immediately associate with deer. Although other animals may have horns, only deer have antlers, which structurally are not the same as horns. The primary difference is that antlers are deciduous—a new set grows every year...
2. Form and Function
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Deer species vary considerably in body size. The moose (Alces alces) is the largest living deer, with body weights up to 1,760 pounds (800 kg). The smallest deer species is the tiny southern pudu of South America (Pudu puda), which is only about 13 inches (34 cm) tall at the shoulder and weighs about 17 pounds (8 kg). As might be expected...
3. Deer Coat Colors
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The coat (or pelage) of a deer serves a variety of functions, including acting as a barrier to biting insects and protecting against the harmful effects of solar radiation. Primarily, however, the function of the pelage is insulation. Insulation is critical for all but tropical deer species during the winter, especially for those at higher...
4. Deer Behavior
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All deer are social, because they rely on males and females coming together to mate and on maternal care for their offspring. However, species of deer differ in the degree of social cohesion (togetherness) among adults. For deer that are territorial, a male and a female may share a home range. This behavior is common in smaller species...
5. Deer Ecology
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Forest deer do not sleep in a single location, but most have a limited number of sleeping areas, called bedding sites, within their home range. These sites most likely are determined by their degree of shade, the wind direction and speed, the slope and aspect of the ground, and their proximity to food sources. With several bedding sites...
6. Reproduction and Development
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Reproduction in deer is a complex process where males and females must be synchronized in their hormonal and physical development. Sperm must be deposited within the reproductive tract of the female within hours of ovulation (production of an egg from a mature follicle—a group of cells—in the ovary). The signal triggering this...
7. Foods and Feeding
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All deer are herbivores, and their diet consists almost entirely of plants. Their teeth and digestive systems are specifically adapted to cut and grind, digest, and then process nutrients from many different types of vegetation. Herbaceous plants provide a portion of the diet for all deer species, but the feeding strategies of different deer species are...
8. Deer and Humans
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Deer are wild animals, not pets. Grown deer can be dangerous and unpredictable, especially males during the rut (mating season), even if they have become fairly accustomed to their surroundings. Without permits, keeping a wild animal is illegal almost everywhere in the United States; most city and county ordinances also restrict...
9. Deer Problems (from a human viewpoint)
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Too much of anything can cause problems, and too many deer are no exception. Overabundant deer can create difficulties in several ways. Of course, what constitutes “too many deer” is a value judgment that certainly will vary among individuals. Biologists consider deer to be overabundant when they disrupt people’s lives, when they...
10. Human Problems (from a deer’s viewpoint)
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People have hunted and eaten deer for thousands of years. Deer have provided meat (venison), hides for shelter and clothing, and bones and antlers for tools and artwork for early Paleolithic peoples and indigenous (native) societies worldwide (see chapter 8). Deer continue to be vital to many present-day subsistence hunters (those who hunt...
11. Deer in Art and Literature
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Deer were objects of art and mythology for the earliest Hittite (people from Anatolia, or Asia Minor, in what is now western Turkey) and Egyptian cultures, the Greeks, the Celts, the Hindus, and others throughout the ancient world. Stags (males) were usually believed to have supernatural size and powers, while hinds (females) often were credited...
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There are several kinds of professionals who study deer. In North America, most of the people responsible for deer management work within state, provincial, and federal governments. Some experts, however, work as private consultants or as managers for large landowners. Deer managers are responsible for estimating deer numbers...
Appendix A: Deer of the World
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Appendix B: Deer Conservation Organizations
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Index and Image Plates
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Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 32 color photos, 77 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist