White-Tailed Deer

On Memorial Day, I spent the warm and sunny morning at a favorite central Ohio park of mine.  Walking through the woods, I turned a corner on a path, and this is what I saw.  Notice what’s on the path in the distance.

I zoomed in the camera lens for a closer shot.

Mother doe goes into the woods and baby fawn follows at a casual pace.

This was an encounter with Ohio’s official state mammal, White-Tailed Deer.  What gorgeous creatures!  Native to much of North and Central America, they get their name from the color of the underside of their tails, which can be prominently raised as an alarm signal to other deer.  It’s hard to believe, but this common animal, which proliferated in Ohio after the end of the last Ice Age, was all but extinct in the state by 1904.  Settlers had cleared its forest habitat, and hunters had thinned the population greatly-our slang word for a dollar, ‘buck’, comes from buckskins that were used as trade goods in the pioneer days.  By the 1950s, the population had recovered enough to begin a state-wide hunting season for them once more.  They are currently plentiful, kept only in check by hunters- they no longer have any remaining animal predators, not counting cars (Ohio unfortunately has one of the highest deer-car collision rates in the country).  Imagine an Ohio where cougars and wolves hunted deer- it’s been a while since those times.

I walked further down the path that fine morning, and suddenly, not 30 feet away to my left, I saw another doe, who was watching me.

I was reminded of the time that I saw 2 deer cross a rural road right in front of my (stopped) car.  After crossing, one looked back at me, almost as if she were trying to fathom what she was looking at (I imagine I would look the same way if an alien spacecraft landed 30 feet away from me).  It seems there’s an element of curiosity at work.

As I held perfectly still, the doe started eating nearby foliage, never taking her eyes off of me.

After a morning nibble, she then slowly turned and walked away, leaving me to reflect on a chance encounter with nature’s beauty.