At this time of year there are two events that bring more visibility to deer; 1) acorns begin to drop from oak trees along roads that provide deer with much needed protein during the upcoming months and 2) the breeding season, also called “the rut” or rutting season, begins.
During most of the year, deer are primarily observed from dusk to early morning hours but at this time of the year, because of their search for acorns and the occurrence of the rut, deer can be seen at any time of the day.
During the rut, bucks become highly focused on finding a mate and begin their reconnaissance and establishment of territory. The friendly sparring matches with other bucks that took place earlier in the year now turn serious and they become strongly competitive. As female deer (does) become fertile, their pursuit by bucks becomes intense. Recently weaned fawns in panic mode will try to keep up with their mothers as they are pursued and last year’s fawns, now yearlings, also often travel with their mothers.
As the breeding season or rut heats up, it can become a dangerous time for drivers and deer. Because deer often travel in families, drivers, including cyclists, should always be on the lookout for not one but up to three and sometimes four or more deer crossing the road; a doe, her young fawns, sometimes their older siblings, and a buck bringing up the rear in pursuit. Be especially alert for deer crossing the road at night. Deer eyes are highly sensitive to bright light and can be blinded by headlights at night, hence the phrase, “deer in the headlights.”
When a deer darts out into the road ahead of your car, the safest practice is to stop, if possible, and wait until you feel all have crossed the road, then proceed slowly. Waiting a few seconds and then moving at a reduced speed of 18 – 20 miles an hour can drastically reduce the chances of a collision.
This is also the time of year when bucks may rub their antlers on your small trees or saplings and damage the bark. You can easily protect your trees by placing two or three dry branches three to fourfeet long around the trunk and securing them with zip-ties. Alternatively, plastic or mesh fabric can be wrapped tightly around the lower trunk. Another handy solution is to snap inexpensive, clear curtain rod covers around trunks with small diameters. They are virtually invisible and after the rut they can be removed and stored for next year.
If you find an injured deer in Palo Alto, Los Altos or Los Altos Hills, please contact Palo Alto Animal Services at (650) 329-2413.
If you find an injured deer in other areas, please contact your city’s animal control services agency. Native Animal Rescue’s deer hotline: 408 728-6334 is also available to help determine the best course of action or agency to contact. NAR is the nonprofit wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization serving Santa Cruz County, joined by the Silicon Valley Deer Team after the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley discontinued its fawn rescue and rehabilitation program in 2016.