Bucks on the move

It took my breath away–just as I was about to take the first bite of my morning cereal, there, out the front windows, stood two jostling, bristle-haired bucks.
I went to the back of the cabin to corral my husband out of bed for the anticipated fury of a showdown.
By the next glance, the larger buck was circling the smaller one.
“Oh . . . it’s going to be a fight,” remarked my husband as he blinked at the first glimmers of morning.
But the face-off was fairly serene. Instead, the biggest guy ended up looking at us while the smaller one (although still with at least six antler points) took to the lake.
Even though the display was brief, it was magnificent. Plus it helped to answer a question: why are so many bucks in the water?
It’s common right now. I’ve actually observed three within a week and others have commented about it, as well.
Swimming deer move fast, too. With their heads completely out of water and antlers raised high, they remind me of prowling submarine periscopes.
I can hardly believe how their hoofs must thrust and bubble in that cold water below, but in fact, according to studies, deer can swim up to 21 km/h.
It seems they are in the water now because it’s rutting season–hunters report the second rut peak was Nov. 10-12.
This rutting, which continues into December, is when bucks are particularly bold and active as they aggressively compete with each other to breed with as many does as possible.
The females aren’t always ready when the bucks are, though, which means the forest is the scene of some feisty chases.
The bucks’ frustrated rampage is especially evident as you walk the trails. For example, you’ll notice that branches are bent, bark is rubbed off trees, and there are places where deer have scraped at the ground.
So I’d say, after witnessing our morning exchange, less dominant bucks might take to water as a way to relinquish breeding vicinity to more dominant foes.
Also, female swimming deer probably are those not yet in estrus as they escape the aggressive attention of bucks.
Either way, the deer appear to be in almost constant motion throughout the area this time of year.
All this activity is something like a story from the supermarket tabloids, but instead it’s happening somewhere outside your window—maybe even when you’re about to eat your morning cereal.
• • •
Thank you so much to the reader who submitted about the swimming deer near her cabin. Also of big interest, a reader commented about seeing a sea gull on Nov. 13, which is a very unusual site on the lakes this time of year.
In addition, snowshoe hares are now white (lucky for them we’re finally getting snow) while flocks of snow buntings are lifting off like doves from gravel roadsides.
Thank you to those who share what you see. It helps the rest of us feel connected to our natural surroundings.
As well, I hope you’ll find time to enjoy the great outdoors this coming week. Let me know what’s out there by contacting joanna@escape.ca

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