Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Hybrid Deer

So after sending my video to some experts in the province, they believe that the fourth deer in this video is likely a hybrid deer. They are not very common at all, which is pretty exciting that I got a video of one.
Hybrid deer occur when mule deer and whitetail deer ranges overlap. They are often the result of a whitetail buck mating with a mule deer doe (although it can go the other way), as mule deer and whitetail deer have different mating practices that make it easier for the pairing to work this way. Whitetail bucks are used to chasing their ladies around until they get tired, while mule deer usually just stand still for the deed (well, let's just get this over with). So when a whitetail buck encounters a mule deer doe during the rutting season, he can't believe his luck and thus little hybrids are made. Mule deer bucks, on the other hand, are often saddened and confused when whitetail does run away from them, causing them to spend long hours in front of the mirror contemplating what part of them gave such offence. So it is much less rare that baby Hybrid deer are born to whitetail mothers.
As it turns out, it is a good thing that mule deer mother these special little fawns. Hybrid fawns are not too hardy, with only about 50% of them surviving past their first 6 months. Mule deer does are typically larger and more defensive of their babies than whitetails, giving those poor little hybrids a better chance at survival.
One of the reasons that Hybrid deer have such a poor survival rate is that they become confused when approached by a predator. A whitetail's response would be to run away and a mule deer would "stott," bouncing on all four feet at once, bounding over boulders and barriers (I'm pretty sure they make a "boing, boing, boing" sound as they go). The hybrid doesn't seem to do either, but pretty much runs around in circles. Hence, another reason why it is rare.
Hybrid deer males are sterile, but the females can mate with either whitetails or mule deer. The hybrid deer look a lot like the fourth deer in my video above: Dark long tails like whitetails, a white rump like a mule deer, and mule deer ears (maybe a bit smaller). For more information on identifying them, check out this informative article: http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_other/rmrs_2012_heffelfinger_j001.pdf

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