Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Deer Browse

Michigan's white tail deer need as much as 7000 kcal per day to keep going during cold weather. In the winter, the deer rely on browsing young trees and shrubs. They prefer white cedar, white pine, maples, yellow birch, dogwood and sumac. If these are in short supply other species will do. Deer do not have upper incisors. They tend to tear the twigs when eating. This is a good way to tell whether it has been deer chopping on the tree. Rabbits also use the twigs for winter food but their teeth cleanly slice the material.
Two years ago, Gahagan Preserve erected two deer exclosures (see picture). These are small, fenced in areas that keep the deer from browsing within them. This allows the small trees and brush to mature without being nibbled. As time goes on, you will be able to witness the difference deer can make to the forest. Take a walk this winter where short, young trees are growing and look for the shredded ends of the small twigs. Look anywhere from ground to 5 feet high. Then consider that a deer will eat 7 to 14 lbs a day to keep their bodies going!

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