Mule Deer On The Move
It’s spring, and mule deer are moving across our roads and highways, through our neighborhoods and yards. We see them so frequently, it is easy to assume that their populations are high, but the opposite is true. Mule deer are at less than 50 % of their sustainability, according to ODFW, and with increased development and recreation, they and other wildlife are losing their place here.
Why are they moving?
Mule deer need to move across the land to find forage that is uniquely suited to their four-chambered stomach. This varies seasonally. They also benefit from joining larger herds for genetic diversity, and when they leave the foothills of the Cascades to winter in lower elevations, they get both the forage they need and contribute to biodiversity. Climate change, changes in the forests, grasslands, and other factors compound the obstacles they face.
When they can’t migrate because the routes have been lost when one generation of does cannot teach the fawns the routes. Or, when they get run over trying to cross streets and highways, they become stranded in our yards where they are confronted by other threats to their survival. One is being fed foods they can’t digest.
Why shouldn’t we feed them?
We can sicken them and even kill them by feeding them foods that their stomachs don’t have the micronutrients to digest. Deer have been found dead from malnourishment with their stomachs full of vegetation they can’t digest. Cracked corn causes a very painful bloat condition that kills deer, especially fawns.
What is this about stressing wildlife?
Deer and other wildlife are very susceptible to stress from human disturbance and domestic pets. Humans can stress wildlife from 200 meters. When wildlife is stressed, it loses its ability to reproduce and to fight diseases that spread quickly through herds.
Dogs can attack deer. Many fawns are killed every year by unleashed dogs. Also, deer can kick dogs in defense, injuring them fatally. Keeping deer out of our yards and on the move, protects both the deer, our pets and us.
Deer attract predators like cougars. Cougars prey on deer and will go where they go. When deer are in our yards, it isn’t safe for them, their predators or us.