This week I was able to cross-off yet another question from the vast list I’ve accumulated over the years. When I see more than the normal number of dead deer along the roads in the fall, it’s rather a no-brainer in this part of the country to figure that the annual phenomenon known as “the rut” had something to do with that deer’s demise. At that time of the year, both bucks and does seem to throw all caution to the wind as they either chase or are being chased by the opposite sex.
However, when I see more than the normal number of dead deer along the roads in the spring and early summer, I always wonder why. An excellent article in last week’s Hutchinson News written by Lloyd Fox, Big Game Coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) helped answer that question for me.
It’s a proven and well known fact that when whitetail deer fawns are very young their mothers often hide them while they go a short distance away to feed. Here in Kansas, twin fawns are fairly common, and according to Fox, intuition tells the mothers that hiding them separately is yet another way to possibly protect one or both fawns from predators. If there is some predominant feature in the landscape such as a stream or road, the mothers will often hide one fawn on each side of it, and cross that land feature back and forth from time to time to check on each fawn. If that feature happens to be a road or highway, the mother can easily get hit by a vehicle, as, just like during the rut, she is preoccupied.
Anyone who has spent any time at all outdoors of late knows it’s again tick and mosquito season in Kansas, and because of all the recent rains, mosquitos are flourishing. A new, nasty mosquito-borne virus that has spread rapidly in the Caribbean has now been found in the southeastern U.S. Thought to have been brought here by infected travelers returning home from the Dominican Republic, chikungunya (chik-un-GHUN-ya) causes high fevers and painful joints but is rarely fatal, and has no vaccine yet to treat it. This is just one of several nasty and sometimes debilitating diseases spread by ticks and mosquitos.
When spending any time at all in the outdoors this time of year, always soak any exposed skin with a good insect repellent. Repellents containing high amounts of the chemical DEET are the most effective. If possible and feasible, wear long sleeves and long pants and tuck your pant legs inside good boots as a deterrent against ticks. The absolute best deterrent to mosquitos is removal of any open containers, old tires etc. that hold water and can become mosquito larva nurseries. To control mosquito larva in small ponds, stock them with goldfish and/or put in little floating cakes of special insecticide called Mosquito Dunks that can be purchased at Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot and are specially formulated to kill only mosquito larva.
Deer fawns grow fast and won’t have to be hidden by their mothers for much longer this year, but in the meantime keep an eye out for deer crossing the roads, and please protect yourselves against ticks and mosquitos when outside. When we were kids we didn’t worry about exposing our skin all summer long to hot direct sunlight and ticks and mosquitos were the least of our worries. Now that skin cancer and tick and mosquito-borne diseases have become very prevalent, it’s time to be smarter about all that so we and our kids will be around longer to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve can be contacted by email at email@example.com.