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Deer in the Headlights
Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street

Though they most likely don’t have those famous reindeer names, we do have a deer population in our area: the Baja black-tailed deer. The range of this small, dark, stocky breed, a type of mule deer, starts south of Los Angeles and continues on into Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. We also are home to the Southern Mule Deer whose habitat is closer to our coast.

You may have spotted some. Perhaps you have seen some of the 20-30 deer who mainly use the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, hopefully not staring into your headlights. People have for thousands of years as recorded in Paleolithic times at the Lascaux caves in France. Deer also appear throughout mythology.

There are some 55 species of the Cervidae family whose members include deer, elk, moose, caribou and reindeer. The Cervidae males, aka stags or bucks—and some species of females, aka does—sport antlers, unique in the animal kingdom that are one of the fastest growing animal tissues. They can grow at a rate of up to an inch a day. And, size matters: the bigger, the better. It is an advertisement of male health. Growing antlers uses serious bodily resources and it takes serious strength to carry them. They are used for show, to declare social dominance, to attract a doe, and for fighting with competitors for the right to breed during the seasonal rut or mating season, late October to November. The antler’s tines—forks— create grooves allowing males’ antlers to lock into place in combat, lessening the risk of an injury to the animal’s face during battle. Those with the heaviest antlers usually win and are the last to shed them after the rut. In time, a new set of antlers starts growing to ready the buck for the next season.

For defense, these herbivores have super sight. Their 310 degree peripheral vision works with the additional perk of excellent night vision to keep them on alert. When necessary, they can flee swiftly on land with running speeds up to 35 miles an hour, and they are able swimmers, useful if/when being chased by a predator that might be a bobcat, coyote, or mountain lion. If they use their talents well, they can live for 15-20 years.

In case you have missed the real thing, ’tis the season to see some fantasy deer in Del Mar: that mini herd of reindeer that rides high with Santa right atop rooftops on Camino Del Mar.



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