HOT WEATHER DEER HABITS   Leave a comment

I have often heard these past few years how the hot weather during the summer helps the deer hunting in the fall.  The theory in my part of the country is that with hot weather, the farmers harvest their grain in plenty of time to have it all out by deer season.  This reduces the amount of cover to conceal the deer from hunters and other predators.

Such was the case last year and the annual deer harvest in Illinois was down in some areas from the year before when it rained a lot.

 Then I came across a paper published on the website of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.  (http://ckwri.tamuk.edu/research-programs/deer-research-program/)

 The study by Tim Fulbright and Dean Wiemers focused mostly on the behavior of south Texas deer during drought.  They found that food availability affected deer movement.  Wet years produced good food supplies and drought led to a scant supply.

 They found that during drought conditions the deer became active at about the same time of the morning but maintained a higher level of activity when considering distance traveled to feeding areas.  They also began searching for food earlier in the afternoon. 

The scientists concluded that the spent more time foraging in drought years simply because it took them more time to find enough food to meet their needs.  However they did not seem to travel further to obtain that food. 

The deer appear to make certain tradeoffs to spend more time searching for food during drought.  Active deer are at greater risk from predation.  Coyotes may be more inclined to pursue deer during drought because populations of rodents may be low.  If the deer restrict their foraging to night time it increases the risk of predation. 

Walking around in the morning and evening during summer drought increase heat loads, raises their heart rate and increased the amount of energy expended in searching for food.  If they do not gain enough energy from eating to compensate for the energy used they begin to use body fat to support metabolism.  If this continues it can lead to starvation.  

In addition to managing their activities deer also turn to drought hardy woody plants. 

For more information about this study refer to the website mentioned above.

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