Ask Outdoors Girl

April 17, 2011

Brian Reynolds of Fallston writes: My backyard runs down into a gully. Through the winter, we see deer move back and forth on a daily basis. I have never seen a deer with antlers even though, often there may be six or nine deer together. Can you help a city/suburban guy understand?

Outdoors Girl turns to another Brian, DNR's chief deer dude, Brian Eyler, who replies: That is a great question. There are several explanations for what you are seeing. First, only male white-tailed deer have antlers, and in the deer world most times the population will be made up of more female deer than male deer (normally between two to five females per male). Males tend to have larger home ranges than females and this makes them more susceptible to being hit by cars, taken by hunters, etc. At the same time, females typically stay in family groups that do not include the adult males. (The only time males and females remain together consistently is during the breeding season in November). So during the winter, there aren't as many males in the population, and the ones that are still out there are not traveling with the females and their offspring. So the odds are better you will see the female groups since there are more of them. Another reason you see more females than males is because the males tend to be more secretive than females and will move more at night. Lastly, white-tail males shed their antlers every winter/early spring and grow a new set. So some of the deer you are seeing could be males that have already shed their antlers for the year and look like females until they begin growing a new set.

If you have an outdoors question in search of an answer, send it to candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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