In The Adirondacks



“For many visitors, the view of a white-tailed deer in the Adirondacks is the highlight of their experience in the Park, overshadowing previous exposure to the same animal in the more mundane contexts of rural pastures and corn fields. Residents, too, are appreciative of the presence of white-tailed deer as part of their ordinary routines.

The primary change increasing the Adirondack deer herd was the conversion of large tracts of mature forest with its poorly developed understory into area of more diverse, low-growing, young vegetation which increased the food supply. Timber harvest on private lands continues to foster the Adirondack deer herd; the maturation of the public forest discourages it.

Food and Feeding Behavior: The white-tailed deer, an adaptable but selective herbivore, grazes and browses the most nutritious plants available. Feeding specialization include a four-part stomach containing bacteria and protozoans that aid in digesting cellulose, and a tough cartilaginous pad in place of the upper incisors.

Terrestrial and aquatic herbaceous plants, fungi, and fruits form much of the summer diet. Acorns and beechnuts (until buried by snow) and woody browse are important autumn and early winter foods, as well as dried leaves and grasses. White tailed deer prefer white cedar, birches, aspens, American yew, hemlock, maples, ash, white pine, mountain ash, scarlet elder, sumac, witchhobble, and high bush cranberry. Beech, balsam fir, spruces, and larch are either unpalatable, indigestible, or both. The spring diet includes the buds, twigs, and developing foliage of woody and herbaceous plants [called forbs].

White-tailed deer vacated their summer ranges when the snow depth reaches 15 inches, usually in late November or December, and travel up to 12 miles to reach traditional winter ranges (deer yards) that offer continuous coniferous cover overhead. Movement to the winter range is rapid, often less than 24 hours. Benefits of this habitat are not well-known, but may include reduced wind chill, easier movement (the snow sifts through the foliage and has a different physical character, or is shallower because the foliage retains part of the accumulation). Travel within the winter range is along well-defined trails, which is a key advantage for deer living in groups in winter; an individual saves energy by not having to continually create a new trail. The detection and escape from predators may be another advantage.

Walking, trotting bounding and running are normal gaits of a white-tailed deer, which is capable of running at speeds up to 35 mph for several miles … This species swims well, and frequently enters water in summer to forage….”



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