Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.


Adaptation, Conservation, Critters, Deer Management, Hunting, Whitetail Biology

It's a remarkable day when 22 degrees feels perfectly tropical.  The recent cold snap probably got your attention.  It sure got mine.  Twice.  First, when it happened and again the other day when I saw the We Energies bill.  Yikes!  It's easy to feel sorry for yourself (and your old Tosa bungalow) when the monthly heating bill creeps over a couple a hundred bucks.  But I'll adapt.  

Brutally cold weather has returned and I'm thinking about adapting to another outrageous gas bill.  I've also been thinking further about the deer and the other wild critters out there and how they are getting by.  

At minus 24 degrees you have to wonder what the heck these deer are doing out and about.  They haven't got a natural gas bill to pay as they've got bigger challenges on their minds.  Such as basic survival.

Odocileus virginianus - the North American whitetail deer - is a remarkably adaptable creature.  A true survivor.  In pre-settlement times the deer population of Wisconsin was much smaller than it is today.  And it was about to get smaller.  The fur trade and later subsistence hunting and market hunting reduced deer populations to their lowest levels in modern history.  Then a curious thing happened.  Following the great cut-over of Wisconsin's old growth forest and the later collapse of farming in many northern Wisconsin counties a younger forest emerged.  And with it the population of deer rebounded.  Thanks to a combination of forest succession, the species' polygamous breeding habits and scientific game management it is estimated that the Wisconsin deer herd today is four times that of the early 1960s.  

You might be asking yourself why those deer look somewhat chubbier.  For sure they are fatter.  These are farmland deer and they've built-up a store of fat reserves going into the winter months to assist their survival.  They are also shaggier.  The rusty red-colored summer coat of a whitetail lasts only about three months.  Hormonal changes bring about a molting process and deer grow a faded gray coat consisting of longer guard hairs.  This gives the animal a larger appearance.  The extra layer of longer, stiffer, hollow hair over the softer hair closer to the skin is a remarkable insulator.  An adaptation so efficient that fallen snow on a deer's back is resistant to melting.


I'm not too concerned for the deer in the photos above.  They are where they are because younger pine plantations afford them excellent thermal cover during the winter months.  And much to my chagrin - younger trees are a food source.  My cedars will be browsed extensively and the oaks stripped of their buds - all to the height of what a whitetail can reach.  When the population of deer outstrips the capacity of their environment starvation occurs which leads to increased mortality.

The science of game management requires some level of hunting to keep the population from growing beyond the carrying capacity of the land.

This wonder of adaptation can handle just about anything man or nature can throw at them.  Here's a survivor...

This old buck has survived vehicles, the rut and another season of hunting.  As a dominant member of the local population he's been consorting with the ladies and spreading his progeny.

It's no wonder whitetail deer captivate hunters and non-hunters alike.

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