Rutting season for deer, which leaves the bucks overly focused on one thing – procreation – is expected any day now, according to a local wildlife biologist.
There are already signs among Greater Victoria’s male urban deer population, primarily a thickening of the neck to physically handle the head-butting, said Alina Fisher, a doctoral student in Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria.
A group of three bucks in her own yard, who stick together most of the year are now out and about solo, she noted.
“They no longer like each others company,” said Fisher, who works with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, which is inoculating does with immunocontraceptives ahead of mating season.
Every fall, conservation officers deal with rutting incidents in urban areas. Last fall, Victoria police intervened after two bucks got tangled up in a fishing net, dragging a large chunk of driftwood around as they battled each other to exhaustion.
“They’re single-minded about trying to establish dominance with each other and looking for does,” Fisher explained. “They’re very reactionary to being startled.”
It’s not that the male deer become more aggressive, or even stupid, but they’re so focused on one thing they forget to be wary and are easily startled.
The bucks also tend to be a little awkward this time of year, as by this point in the year they have the biggest rack of antlers they’ll have to date.
“They don’t know what they can navigate safely,” Fisher said.
She takes certain precautions and recommends them for others: make noise when walking, drive slowly and when cycling, take the middle of the lane on blind corners to avoid potential encounters.
“They don’t want to interact with us,” she said, but that won’t stop them sometimes. An unleashed dog can be a huge risk.
“Dogs smell like wolves, they interpret them like wolves … they want to get away. They get a fight or flight reflex. If the dog darts out toward them, it’s possible they’ll try to protect themselves.”
Homeowners are also encouraged to remove attractants. For Fisher, the trio of bucks she sees remind her to get the apples off the backyard tree.
While they may provide some hilarity, with the awkward antlers offering some funny entanglements, Fisher said it’s important to give them space.
“I totally understand the urge to try to film it, because it’s really fascinating and they’re doing a natural behaviour. But you have to fight against your own inclinations and back away,” she said, noting it’s uncertain who will win, and one will lose and run off, playing again into that deep focus.
Ruts usually only result in bruised egos for bucks, but residents can alert the B.C. Conservation Officer Service if they see an animal severely injured or not eating.
The stewardship society offers tips for handling rutting season at uwss.ca. Reports of tangled-up deer or those believed to be in danger can be made to B.C. Conservation at 1-877-952-RAPP or by texting #7277.
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