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January 19th, 2010 - Oh, Deer.

I came across some photos recently that I took during a snowstorm at Springbrook Nature Center in 2007, and thought they were worth a another view.
It was 2:30 in the afternoon on one of those murky and snowy December days, the kind of days when it looks like it's dusk at all hours of the day, and the snow just keeps coming down.

The deer and squirrels were feeding heavily at the birdfeeders (a misnomer) and I think they were having a hard time seeing us inside the nature center. The large pane windows have a light tint, and with the lights off inside and a lot of snow outside they become sort of a one-way mirror.
It seemed like the animals could hear us but couldn't see our movement, so they just gave us the hairy eyeball and tried to snarf down as much as they could before the feeders got snowed under.

This gave me ample opportunity to try some different things with the camera. I had my little tripod and was sitting on the floor shooting through the glass without flash the whole time.
Most of these were taken at 1/30th of a second at f5.6, ISO 250, and auto exposure. I think I started with auto-focus and ended up going to manual because the glass was fooling the camera too much.

Above we see the progression of deer and squirrel sharing the feeder tray. The snow was making it just too much trouble for either of them to disagree with one another too much, and finally they came to terms on separate sides of the feeder and joined together to keep an eye on the common enemy (me, or at least the sounds behind the glass.)

Time for a shake-off. I think this is what is known as a 'localized blizzard'.

Wha...? Hunh...? Why are you guys touching your noses...?
Oh man, how embarrassing! A birdseed mustache. I hate that.

What. I wasn't do'in nuthin.
In Minnesota some folks like the deer, some hate them, some are indifferent. I like them, I'm not a hunter, but I realize the importance of 'management', or population control. They are just too prolific to be allowed to run rampant in a small area with no predators remaining for them. And the effects without it are not very pretty. Starvation, and diseases caused by food deficiencies are the result, not to mention much tree damage from over-feeding on the available natural food source: bark.
It's sad sometimes too, as even in our small samples, diseases and abnormalities begin to show up in the herd because there is little outside population control. We don't have the wolves and coyote packs that used to naturally control the herds.
I will always remember a natural resources biologist telling me that we have to be conscious of our public hunting policies, as the human tendency is to take the 'best'; the biggest, strongest, most well-formed, trophy animals and leave the less-desireable underlings to procreate and breed the stock, changing the gene pool if left to extremes. I guess this is true, but we seem to do an adequate job, from what my narrow urban view can see. At least we have much more technology and data to base our plan upon than we did in he past. Minnesota does have a doe season and reduces the overall numbers this way, but still, everyone wants the biggest, best, 'celebrity buck.'

She's got that look like trouble's afoot, or that she just heard the warning from others. They are interesting to watch at the feeders. The alpha male buck will approach cautiously by himself first, checking out every sound and smell and feed very gingerly, almost as a cover for checking the place out, then he will stomp his foot a number of times to call the others out of hiding. Fascinating. Even here, in their protected environment inside the nature center grounds, they haven't totally given up their instinctual 'prey mentality'.
At the time these images were taken, there was a herd of at least 15 deer within the 120 acres of the park. Since then the herd has been 'managed' and thinned down, but because of their range and the ease of travelling over iced-up lakes and rivers during the winter, their numbers are never certain, even with aerial surveys. So far this year I have seen about five or six 'regulars' in the woods, including two different 6 point bucks, and earlier in the year, two newborn fawns.
Love them or hate them, they are an interesting story to watch play out, virtually in every backyard.

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