Deer sweet tooth
Full nest: by Cindy Kauffman
There’s a herd of deer roaming
around this side of town that
appear to be suffering from ongoing enamel loss and
I claim no responsibility.
But I do have a personal account, so to speak, of possible reasons for their graying incisors and their increasing symptoms of hoof and mouth disease.
My neighbor puts out a salt lick for these light-footed critters. I’ve considered doing this, too, though I wondered if it were a dietary deer benefit or simply a salted pretzel kind of snack.
As luck would have it, the 50-some pound salt block wasn’t where I thought it would be at the grocery store. (If there’s a place other than in the shelved spices aisle, then it isn’t properly labeled — at all.)
A real energy kick instead, however, would be pure cane sugar (under the presumption that no such thing as “deer diabetes” exists). It isn’t associated with increased blood pressure, like that mean old salt. Plus, sold in small, dice-sized squares, the sugar happens to be more prudent — and much lighter — to haul to the back yard. Try it if you don’t believe me.
Indeed, after a deer’s meal of peeled tree bark, I would consider the deer sugar-lick tantamount to sipping a caramel latte after a meal of bran flakes and dry toast. No deer ever had such a sugary, sweet life. (That is, except for Bambi. But the barbarians who “tagged” his sweet mother had only venison on their minds.)
Right now I’m watching the bucks and does munch on our little round bushes around the patio. (This particular type of bush looks a bit like a tiny evergreen and grows red berries during the summer.) Duty should have it that I make some noise, scare the deer away and save our little round shrubs. Personally, though, I can’t stand the things. The rounder they grow, the more annoying they become. OK, the above “sugar-lick” claim is bogus. But I have been trying to show extra kindness to our running, leaping friends. So instead of that mean old salt, I do turn to the sugar cubes on occasion.
But it’s another matter (as we city folk with a woods in our back yard can attest) when the sad, faded eyes of a misplaced doe meet yours through the kitchen window. “The old man left,” her eyes relay. “And he took everything. Can’t you spare just one melon rind, apple core or piece of cheese-stuffed-crust from last night’s pizza?”
No doubt neighbor Pete will give me some static over this, but sometimes I’ll even cast out a brown sugar and cinnamon Pop-Tart. It’s perfectly camouflage-colored, and the critters seem more infatuated with it than with my hardened blueberry muffins. I “beaned” both out toward the trees last night.
Particularly now, with the patio snow three feet deep, I would think any flavor of Pop-Tart would be better than none.
And also, like most children, the young foals did the “deer-dash” to reach the jellybeans, gumdrops and huge clump of Christmas-stocking Milk Duds first. (The latter is a rare commodity, which could be very debilitating.)
All of this, I do under cover of darkness, while Pete’s in bed.
Yesterday, I followed some animal tracks and saw what looked like deer hooves dragging along the top of the snow, forming unbroken parallel lines. Either they couldn’t walk above the deep snow, or perhaps a few of the more aggressive bucks were hauling their does along by their rear legs. (If so, they must be doing it while I’m in bed. I’d be out there with carving knife and Corning Ware if I ever witnessed such brute animal authority.)
There were also raccoon tracks with small, dainty imprints leading through the snow to the garbage can. This lends itself to the possibility that the raccoon likely eats more of our sweetened toss-outs than does the discerning deer. At least, I maintain, nothing goes to waste. (With the exception of two soft, unsightly apples I lobbed outside this week, which fell right through 15 inches of snow as they landed. I suppose they’ll find those apples in the spring and eat them then. It wasn’t one of my brighter moments.)
Should anyone take deep, sincere exception to the diet I extend to my deer families, I’ll have them know that I would never feed these graceful creatures anything that I wouldn’t eat myself.
And, to quote Forrest Gump: That’s all I have to say about that.