Dec 9, 2015

Whitetail Tracks

by Valerius Geist

I have not read much about deer, aside from a few like Bambi or The Hidden Life of Deer. So I expected to find this book interesting, and it really was. The author explains the lifestyle and success of whitetail deer in relation to their evolutionary history. In fact, it seemed that over half the book was about how deer evolved, from small dwellers of the forest floor right after dinosaurs disappeared, into the first recognizable deer some thirty million years ago. It did feel a bit repetitive, and for all the reiteration, some things were not quite explained well. But I did gain some surprising understanding into why deer have a certain type of body language and why they are so incredibly numerous nowadays. Whitetail deer in particular thrive at the edges of things, where disturbed habitat creates a lot of new, lush growth. Places such as river edges or newly cleared land. It's very clear that they will continue to do well alongside man, being one of the wildlife species that easily adapt and take advantage of changes we make to the environment. Reminding me of another book that called certain adaptive species "weed animals"! The author of Whitetail Tracks predicted that eventually whitetail deer would spread their range up through the Yukon into Alaska, and since he wrote it over a decade ago, I checked. Yes, whitetail are present in the Yukon now although apparently not in great numbers. Reports of whitetail sightings in Alaksa spark arguments on hunting forums. I suspect that as northern regions continue to get warmer, whitetails will keep moving too. They definitely are survivors and opportunists.

Another part that was really interesting discussed trophy bucks- why large males with nicely proportioned antlers are so rare in the wild, and how game farms condition bucks to grow large antlers. It was completely the opposite of what I would have assumed, and the historic aspects of this (gamekeepers protecting deer for feudal lords in the sixteenth century) was new info for me.

I borrowed this book from the public library.

Rating: 3/5        176 pages, 2001

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