November Is Rut Season for Whitetails
November is rut season — the mating period — for the omnipresent whitetail deer in Canyon Lake.
Watch out for them in your neighborhood and on the roads! During the rut, bucks become more aggressive and less-mindful of human activity.
Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation’s Communications and Development Manager Ava Donaldson warns deer are on the move for a number of other reasons, too, including changing temperatures, hunting season, and foraging for food.
Co-habitating with deer requires common sense and diligence in areas like Canyon Lake and New Braunfels, where they’re a ubiquitous feature of many front yards. Deer densities in the Edwards Plateau are highest in the state, at upwards of 117 per 1,000 acres. There are an estimated 5.5 million whitetail deer in Texas in 2020, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), which is responsible for the regulation, conservation, and management of deer populations throughout the state.
Conception dates for the Edwards Plateau region range from as early as October 9 to a late date of Jan. 30. The Edwards Plateau, Texas’ highest deer production region, is divided into three areas by TPWD. The eastern part had a peak breeding date of Nov 7. Peak breeding for the central portion was Nov. 24, and the western area had a peak date of Dec. 5. An average of 90 percent of the does were bred and the average number of fetuses found was 1.3 per doe. The majority (90%) of the fawns are born by June 14 in the eastern area, June 26 in the central area, and by July 13 in the western area.
“Recent precipitation throughout Texas has resulted in a flush of new growth on preferred native deer forages and should set the stage for good winter weed production, critical for deer late in the season,” said Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) on Sept. 29. “This is quite a change from the brown and brittle range conditions experienced in July and August.”
Cain said that Texas hunters and landowners are reporting exceptional antler quality, as seen on trail cameras or while scouting their favorite deer hunting locale.
Although establishing precise dates for the rut in any given year is not an exact science — hunters refer to it as “the riddle of the rut” — according to TPWD.
The Edwards Plateau, Texas’ highest deer production region, is divided into three areas. The eastern part has a peak breeding date of Nov. 7. Peak breeding for the central portion is Nov. 24, and the western area has a peak date of Dec. 5.
Residents throughout the area and the state are urged to exercise caution while driving, and to avoid any interaction with deer, who become more aggressive from late September through early next year. This means they’re fairly unafraid of humans, which makes cross-species interaction — discouraged by Texas Parks and Wildlife at any time of the year — riskier than usual.
Also, car-deer collisions in Texas spike in late fall because bucks have just one thing on their minds — and it isn’t highway safety.
Co-Habitating With Deer
Donaldson said Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation advises residents to follow these tips for living near deer:
- Don’t feed them. “Deer corn” is a commercial name given to dried corn for the express purpose of marketing. There is no such food as “deer corn.” Dried corn is one of the most harmful things you can feed deer. Their bodies are not made to digest corn. Eating it causes deer to develop diarrhea, seek corn instead of nutritious natural food, and contract diseases as a result of malnutrition. If you happen upon a deer who appears sick, feed her protein pellets rather than corn, bread, or other sugary food. When the deer recovers, gradually stop supplementing her food. Feeding deer can cause them to become dependent on and trusting of humans. This will increase their chances of being hurt or killed in an encounter with humans.
- Landscape with deer in mind: As the Hill Country and outlying green spaces of San Antonio are destroyed by urban encroachment, more and more of the land must be shared between humans and native wildlife. That means that at some point deer will sample your flowers and shrubs until finding the tastiest shoots in your garden. While there is no foolproof solution to this situation, you can minimize the damage to your garden by choosing deer-resistant selections from an array of beautiful native plants. A good resource for selecting deer-resistant native plants is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.
- Injured adult deer: Unfortunately, injured adult deer are common in urban or developed areas. Often, the best assistance Widlife Rescue & Rehabilitation can give injured deer is to leave them alone. Deer are easily stressed to an extreme degree, and almost always if an adult deer is captured and transported to Wildlife Rescue, the animal dies from the stress of capture. Deer can also survive and move about quite well on three legs. If you find a deer who has been hit by a vehicle and he cannot stand, he will probably have to be euthanized.
- Be vigilant: When you drive, make a habit of watching from side to side, especially in areas of low visibility or where shrubs or grasses are close to the road. You can also purchase devices to place on your car that create a high-pitched sound, alerting wildlife of your approaching vehicle. Watch for group behavior. Deer tend to travel in groups. If one deer crosses the road, watch for more to follow. Female deer tend to stay together as “doe groups” in winter and have young fawns following them in the spring. Be aware of seasons: In the fall, bucks are on the move due to rutting and the stress of hunting season. In Spring (May-June), yearlings are seeking new territories. Be extra careful driving at these times of year. Time of day matters: Deer are most active at dusk and dawn. Be watchful at these times—wildlife are more likely to be moving across roads. Use high beams: At night, use your high beams to see farther ahead. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near the road edges. If you see a deer on or in the road, immediately turn off your high-beams. When headlights are turned off completely, deer will often move out of the road. You must consider the safety of yourself and other motorists in this case. Drive straight and honk your horn: If at all possible, do not swerve to avoid wildlife but brake firmly and blow your horn. Animals are easily confused. If you swerve, deer may run into the vehicle rather than away.