Contrasting lighter patches at the throat belong to the winter fur of an adult roe deer
Photo: Tarmo Mikussaar
Estonian text posted by the Team of the Animal of the Year 25.12.2017
The year of the roe deer is coming to an end. The year of the lynx is knocking at the door. The roe deer can see theirs as successful in every sense.
The previous winter was warm and snow was scarce. There were no periods to worry the deer. In most cases species that live at the northern boundary of their territory can only dream of such conditions.
The favourable winter was reflected in the progeny. Most of the does had two kids. Even seeing triplets was not rare this summer-autumn.
What waits in the future we don’t know. Certainly the deer are prepared for everything. To the beginning of November they had changed into the insulating grey-coloured winter fur with the white rump mirror. At the same time the bucks got rid of the antlers, by no useless. With luck an observant searcher may find a thrown-off antler at some shrubs or beside an animal trail. An exciting souvenir.
Together with the change of fur and becoming bare-headed their character changed. As if by magic the enmity towards co-specifics disappeared. The boundaries of personal areas were forgotten. They were no longer protected or guarded. Private property went out of fashion. Neighbours were met with friendly curiosity.
For now small groups of less than 10 individuals have formed. The deer know that the chance to survive winter is greater in a group. It is easier to trample paths in the snow by turns, keep watch, scrape up food or discover an enemy in time. The flocks have no leaders. There is no hierarchy. If it is not to one’s liking one can leave. Generally the behaviour of the oldest and most experienced animal is followed.
In cultivated landscapes, particularly with rape, rye and other sprouting fields herds of several tens of animals can be encountered. A risk is to catch a parasite or pest bacterium from the neighbours. Such large groups nearby also attract stray dogs, foxes and large predators.
In the beginning of December the roe deer were at their heaviest, in the literal sense of the word. Fat reserves have been accumulated for the coming winter. It is like a bank account that helps to survive worse periods. Hunters tend to predict the severity of the coming winter from the amount of suet fat and the thickness of the lard. It is not really likely that the deer themselves know what is coming. Rather the amount of stores demonstrates past good times.
A happy end to the deer year!