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Scent plays a strong role in the mating behavior of many animals. Deer are no exception. The musky odors emitted by deer communicate vital information, undetectable to humans. Scent communication is especially important in areas in which there are considerably more does than bucks, a not uncommon situation when many bucks are taken by hunters.
Deer rut is their mating season, usually occurring in mid to late autumn. It corresponds with the time that does come into estrus. If you live in an area heavily populated with deer, that also corresponds with the time you're more likely to find them wreaking havoc on the roads, as the desire to mate makes them even less cognizant of traffic. Bucks are on the move during rut, on the hunt for does. They might start herding does during this period. Bucks might also fight each other, but these battles seldom lead to serious injury.
Before the actual mating, does play "hard to get" for several days. The buck chases a doe, and she eventually allows him to "catch" her. After copulating several times over a period of a few days, the buck stays with the doe for a few more days until she is out of estrus. He stays by her to keep other bucks away. When he leaves, he might go on to find other does with which to mate. If the doe doesn't get pregnant during that cycle, she goes into another estrus cycle within three to four weeks.
Deer Scent Communication
Deer rely heavily on scent for communication, especially during mating season. Deer possess various glands that emit odors.When bucks rub their heads and antlers on trees, they deposit their scent. Certain gland secretions mix with urine, which gives deer information about the sex and reproductive state of other deer in their vicinity. Bucks also scrape, which consists of pawing a bare spot in the ground and then urinating on it.
Other Deer Communication
After an approximately seven-month pregnancy, a doe gives birth to her fawn, or fawns. It isn't unusual for healthy, well-nourished does to give birth to twins or triplets. Fawns found alone aren't usually abandoned. Their mother is nearby, but out of sight. Does and fawns vocalize to let each other know of their whereabouts. If a predator threatens a fawn, the mother stamps her forefeet, snorts and might try to drive the threatening animal -- or person -- away.
- University of Wisconsin: Reproductive Seasonality in Deer
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources: White-tailed Deer
- University of Illinois Extension: Living with White-tailed Deer in Illinois
- Outdoor Alabama: Deer Communication
- New York Times: How Do Deer Communicate?
- The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation: In a Rut -- Breeding Season Behaviors in Deer
- Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images