Trailing Deer in Boyne Valley
Saturday December 2, 2017
Saturday was our first day at the Boyne River Park. The air was still and the frost rested on the sumac. Among our intentions was to discover the habits of the deer. We found the first of many deer scat, tracks and other signs alongside the river.
This day we found
Small scat, big scat
Black scat and olive scat.
Scat in bits and
Scat in clumps.
One scat was a
Deer? Maybe not. It contained what looked like berries, or rather, buckthorn seeds. Do deer eat buckthorn berries? Do raccoons?
Between river and road was a tiny copse of cedar. In the cavity of one of the cedars we found a hive of feral honeybees. On the opposite side of the tree was what appeared to be the scat of two animals: deer and ? Turned out they were two scats of a raccoon who had eaten two different meals. From the evidence of mouse scat and seeds within a pileated woodpecker hole, we figured the mice used it as a feeding spot.
Further down the river within another cedar grove and next to a large cattail marsh we made a rare find: along a beaver trail were two reasonably clear beaver tracks.
Now it was time to get our feet wet meandering along spruce and marsh. We found a soft pile of birch and cedar bark; a red squirrel nest blown down from some perch. Then came words of longing, “Now I want to smell porcupine pee.” Trackers. What can I say? Near the fallen squirrel nest we did indeed smell pee. Our two most expert noses had different opinions. Alexis went with deer; Lee with porcy. Somebody went with deercupine.
It was time to head away from the river and up onto dry land. We climbed the first in a series of ridges and spurs within a large hardwood stand with an open leaf littered floor and occasional copses of conifers. A perfect spot for lunch.
As we set out for the afternoon, we found a big, beautiful, juicy coyote scat. It contained deer fur and fresh grass. Why would coyotes eat grass? Nearby were the tracks of a buck that had halted at the crest of the ridge, scraped with its hind feet, and made an about face. Did it find the scat, or its author? We trailed it in into and up the adjacent reentrant toward a copse of white spruce.
We followed the crisscrossing trails of numerous deer over a couple more spurs until we found one clear set of tracks. This prompted a discussion on front vs rear tracks, and left vs right tracks. Out came the field guides, and a helpful email with photos from Christina. We learned that the dew claws (toes 2 and 5) on the front feet stick out at greater angles than on the rear, and that they are closer to the hooves (toes 3 and 4) on the front than the rear. Regarding left and right, toe 4 (the outer toe) is slightly longer than toe 3.
We shifted from trailing to nerding out on a set of tracks and back to trailing. We finally left the woods, crossed a meadow dotted with deer beds, and climbed the lookout hill for the view, a rest and great stories.
Written By 2nd Year Apprentice Victor Ceni