The white-tailed deer is a common creature. Virtually everyone in North America has seen one.
This has been the first year I’ve taking trail-camming deer seriously, and I’ve been impressed at what has been revealed to me.
As animals go, they are pretty common, but their lives are mysteries to us. They spend so much time in thickets and then are only seen during the dusk and dawn hours.
They don’t form vast herds the way that red and fallow deer do in Europe.
They live out their lives in bands. Related does run together all year round, and the bucks form all male bands that suddenly dissipate once the hormones start flowing at beginning of November.
And these common animals still remain mysterious.
Most people are unaware that the white-tail is the oldest living deer species. It may even be the oldest ungulate species still living in the Americas. Their fossils have been dated to the Pliocene, some 3.5 million years ago!
They were here long before there were wolves and cougars to hunt them and far longer before the first human ever killed one.
It was almost killed off in that orgy of market hunting that spread through the US in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Now, our forests are being shaped by the multitudes of deer that have rebounded and surpassed their Pre-Columbian population levels.
We slam into them with our cars. (One took out my headlight a few weeks ago!) We build Berlin walls around our gardens and vegetable patches to keep them out.
And yet they survive.
As they always have.
We killed off the wolves and cougars, and bobcats and coyotes offer them only token predation.
They live almost without fear, save for the few who sling arrows or blast guns at them.
We can only hope that our kind proves as resilient as the white-tail.
We are the foreigners here.
They are the natives.