Are You in a Rut? The Deer Are!
Rut is a word with many definitions. Often times these definitions do not have a positive association…that is, unless you are a deer. For deer, the rut is an annual period of sexual activity, during which the males fight each other for access to the females. Deer will expand their normal home range (area traveled in search of food or mates) during the rut which peaks around November in Pinellas County. Florida is very unique when it comes to deer biology because the rut period varies throughout the state, but generally speaking, the fall and early winter seasons mean mating time for deer.
Why does this matter to you? When male deer (also called bucks) are chasing a female (or doe) they are focused on finding a mate, leaving little attention for their surroundings. In the most densely populated county in the state, this could pose a serious threat to the deer or your car!
We have deer in Pinellas County? Yes! Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs is the largest remaining natural area in the county, standing at over 8,700 acres. This Preserve and John Chestnut Park support large populations of deer in the northern portion of the county. If you live in this area, you may have recently noticed flagged or flashing deer signs along East Lake Road. Those signs are there to warn you the rut has begun. They are designed to draw your attention to your speed as deer-crossings are more likely to occur during this time period. When you see one deer cross the road, start slowing down and be prepared to break because chances are, there is another one to come.
The rut extends over three or four months, starting with the bucks fighting one another with their antlers and ending after mating. This fighting or sparring is brief, but establishes dominance among the male population. Battles become more aggressive as more and more females come into heat. Baby deer (or fawns) are born about six and a half months after the parents mate and are typically born on the edges of open fields.
Should you come across a fawn without its mom; it should not be assumed orphaned. Wildlife do not have baby-sitters like us, so when they need to feed, they will often leave their young. It is believed this may also reduce the chance of the fawn being spotted by a predator. Fawns will stay with their mother for the first year and then disperse to survive on their own.
The moral of the story is to be on the lookout for deer if you live in northern Pinellas County. If you would like to increase your chances of safely viewing a deer, be sure to visit Brooker Creek Preserve or John Chestnut Park during the early morning or early evening hours when deer are most active.
Fun fact: A gland between the two toe nails of a fawn produces a substance which can be scented and tracked by its mom should the fawn wonder off.
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