Wild is the music of the autumnal winds amongst the faded woods.
I’m trying to get into our woods every few days to see the changes that are occurring as autumn transitions to the bones of winter. The big change this week was the sudden accumulation of oak leaves on the forest floor. It seems they all fell at once, carpeting the ground in a crunchy brown rug. Meanwhile, the trail cameras are still getting lots of deer videos, but the rut has quieted and things are not as frantic as a few weeks ago. Here are a couple of forest vignettes from this past week…
— Our family of Raccoons (I believe it is a mother and three youngsters that are now about as big as she is) continue to dig up the leaf litter every night. They have a regular path they follow, grubbing around for who knows what (worms, grubs, other insects, acorns??).
I’ve noticed a lot of variation in the antler size and shape in our deer herd. White-tailed Deer typically have fairly symmetrical antlers with an equal size, spacing, and number of points on both sides. But, so-called atypical antlers, are not uncommon. The young buck in the video shows a strange bend on one side and some waviness in the point of its antler. I can’t tell from the video if a point was broken or it is just an odd shape. Antler deformities can occur in three major ways: injuries to the pedicel (the antler growing base attached to the skull); injuries to the antler when it is in velvet (the soft, hair-like membrane rich in blood that covers the antlers during their growth phase in spring and summer); or leg injuries. This last one caught me by surprise when I read it. Apparently, the mechanism for the relationship between leg injuries and antler deformation is not well known, but scientists think it may be the result of reallocation of nutrients from antler growth to healing the bone in a leg injury. Oddly, an injury (such as a car collision) to a front left leg can cause a deformity in the left antler, but an injury to a left rear leg may result in the right antler being misshapen. Observing our wild neighbors always seems to bring up more questions and the resulting online searches usually reveal many surprises.