It was my phone. The intercom. "Hello," I warbled into the receiver.
"There's a young deer at the platform feeder right outside the window," came the voice of our weekend manager.
"I'll be right over."
Grabbing my camera, I snuck out of the building that houses my office and into the building that houses the gift shop and exhibit area. And there, right in front of the window that looks out on the birdfeeding area, was this:
Okay - go ahead - all together now - "awwwww."
Mostly, it ignored us. But as I maneuvered myself into a better position, closer to the window, my movement caught its attention and quick as a wink it focused directly on me.
At a certain angle, it looked like it had a bit of a Mona Lisa smile:
Look closely - can you see a wee bit of tongue sticking out below?
And then a wee bit more:
Like little kids, deer get runny noses. And like cattle, they can slurp 'em "dry" with their long and agile tongues:
Every so often, it would lift its head upwards in a series of little jerks. Sniffing the air. Alert for danger. Do deer exhibit a flehmen response like predators, where they can taste scent on the air with the inside of their mouths? Animals doing this usually raise/curl their upper lips, although with cats they merely open their mouths and almost seem to gulp the air. Since this deer's mouth isn't actually open, I suspect it is just sniffing with its nose.
Can you see that rough patch on it's back leg? It kept licking this area. Something must be irritating it, we mused. Mark wondered if perhaps it had been hit by a car (a rather regular occurrence here - there are just way too many deer and 90% of the cars here have encountered them). Shortly after I took this shot, the deer wandered off toward the feeders, and we noticed a definite limp, favoring the left hind leg.
This little one, probably a yearling, may not make it through this winter, what with that bum leg and all the competition with the hundreds of other deer and the hundreds of cars. It spends a lot of time at our birdfeeders - I've seen it there every evening this week as I've left work.
And did you notice just how furry it looked? Deer, as we know, are technically covered with hair, not fur. And in the winter it is rather densely packed in there. Each of those hairs is hollow, like a straw. This helps give the animal an extra layer of insulation to protect it from the cold winter weather. For caribou, those northern cousins of our deer, the hollow hairs also function as millions of tiny life jackets, giving the animals buoyancy for when they have to cross swollen rivers (or lakes) during their annual migrations. Come spring, the deer shed this extra fluffy coat and replace it with a much sleeker hair jacket - don't really need all that extra warmth when it is 90 degrees and 90% humidity out there.
Mostly, I'm not a deer fancier. But, when one gets to see an animal this close, any animal, it is pretty exciting.