Acorns are Here, Watch for Deer!

Acorns are Here, Watch for Deer!

At this time of year there are two events that bring more visibility to deer 1) acorns begin to drop from oak trees that provide deer with much needed protein during the upcoming months and 2) the mating season, also called “the rut” or rutting season begins.

As the breeding season heats up, it becomes a dangerous time for both vehicle drivers and deer. During the rut, bucks become highly focused on finding a mate and begin their reconnaissance and establishment of territory. The friendly sparring matches that took place earlier in the year become much more serious and bucks become strongly competitive. As female deer (does) become fertile, the bucks’ pursuit of them becomes intense. Recently weaned fawns in panic mode will try to keep up with their mothers as they are pursued by the bucks.   In addition to this year’s fawns, last year’s fawns, now yearlings, also often travel with their mothers as they are pursued.

During most of the year, deer are primarily observed from dusk to early morning hours but at this time of the year, because of the need to find acorns and the occurrence of the rut, deer can be seen at any time of the day.  

Because deer are flight animals, they have instinctual, lightning-fast reactions to all forms of stimuli. Deer eyes are highly sensitive to bright light and can be temporarily blinded by headlights, hence the phrase, “deer in the headlights.”

Because deertravel in families, drivers, including cyclists, should always be on the lookout for not one deer but up to three and sometimes four sets of deer crossing the road; a doe, her young fawns, sometimes their older siblings, and a buck bringing up the rear. When a deer darts out into the road ahead of your car, the safest practice is to stop if possible and wait until you are sure all the animals in the group have crossed the road.

This is also the time of year when bucks can be observed rubbing their antlers on branches, normally choosing small trunks or saplings. These plants can be easily protected 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 the trunk. They are virtually invisible and after the rut can be removed and stored for next year.

The City of Palo Alto provides Animal Control and Rescue for the Town of Los Altos Hills. If you find an injured deer, please contact Palo Alto Animal Control at (650) 329-2413.

-Brought to you by the Native Animal Rescue’s deer team. Their 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.

Last Updated: October 9, 2020