Why does that deer look diseased?

Red DeerCentral Oregon is giving us a taste of Spring and we couldn’t be more excited to see the new growth that is already shooting up. Birds are in full migration mode and nest building activity has begun. Our first vulture sighting happened on March 3rd, and the rock chucks (yellow bellied marmots) were sighted shortly after. Riparian trees are releasing puffs of pollen in every breeze, and junipers are sure to follow shortly after (for those of us with allergies, it always seems like this happens too early!) These are the signs of spring that we’ve learned to notice living in this desert paradise

You may have noticed that the deer’s coats have a shaggy appearance this time of year, almost making them look diseased. There’s absolutely no need to panic, however. The animals are simply shedding their winter coats in preparation for warmer weather. As the new hair grows beneath their dense winter fur, it causes itchiness and that ‘shaggy’ appearance. Large patches will fall out and the thinner, duller summer coat becomes visible, which can give the illusion of bald spots (especially on deer). As for the ‘skinny effect,’ this is just like giving your pet a bath. When all that thick fur is matted down with water, or shedding in the spring, the apparent ‘bulk’ is gone and the body underneath is actually much smaller. This is most noticeable on fluffy haired animals such as fox, coyotes, bobcats, and raccoons. Additionally, predators can be showing signs of a hard winter when food was scarce and they actually are a bit thinner than normal. Hibernating animals, such as bear and rock chucks, are coming off of a long fast and are at their lowest body weights for the year. Just as people are called to do some spring cleaning, animals are shaking off the winter energy and clearing the way for easier living.
We invite you to begin taking notice of the signs of spring by looking around with your child and seeing what’s changing. Notice the colors of the bare trees, many are turning shades of red and yellow and the buds of new growth emerge. Take a walk in the woods and look for new shoots and plant growth. Listen for the sound of song birds. Feel the warmth of the sun and the bite of the breeze on your skin. Smell the junipers or pines as they build their sap. And maybe, if your quiet and lucky, you’ll see one of those shaggy creatures walking by, alerting you ever more to the approaching season.

 

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