Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas deer

Six does celebrated the afternoon of Christmas Day this year by hanging out in my back yard, making for a holiday scene of such ruminant proportions that I half expected a team from Hallmark Cards to show up. I watched them doing their usual deer things - shoveling the inch or two of snow on the ground with their right front leg to get at winter grass (most deer appear to be right legged), bedding down to chew their cud in comfort (bending first their front legs to kneel, then curling all four legs under their bodies), and lifting their little white (but black-tipped) tails to drop their dark pellets atop the white snow.

But I observered some other behavior, too. For instance, a larger deer (a mom?) spent many minutes "grooming" a smaller deer (her child?) She kept licking the younger deer's head, ears, and snout while the little deer had its nose in the snow, eating. (All the deer had white snow on their black noses, a detail the Hallmark crew could have documented.)

Then I saw a young deer hopping around, shaking its head. It went up to another youngster and rubbed the top of its head into the other deer's thigh and belly, pushing it into the fence it was grazing beside. What was THAT about?

I also saw how tough winter is on such creatures: They would eat long-desiccated, shriveled brown leaves finally dropped from trees, or still hanging to lilac bushes. Their Christmas dinner.

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