Most of us probably assume that there isn’t much wildlife to see in the winter. In the Smokies, however, winter is a perfect time to view wildlife such as deer, as the trees have lost their leaves. This makes it easier to spot deer through the trees.
Here is what the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to say about our local white-tailed deer:
White-tailed deer live throughout the Smokies, but are most commonly seen in areas with open fields such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley.
Deer living in the southern Appalachians give birth in late June. Newborn fawns have no defense beyond camouflage. Many are lost to predation during their first few days. By their second spring, males begin to grow antlers. They fully develop in August, and in September, the bucks fight for mating rights. Mating occurs in November. The antlers fall off by mid-winter.
Deer browse for nutritious foods. The diversity of plants growing in the park provide excellent food sources. When favored foods disappear, deer switch to more common, less nutritious plants. If nothing else is available, they will eat poison ivy or rhododendron. Acorns and nuts are important fall foods.
Deer populations can change quickly. Local over-population leads to widespread disease and starvation. Predation by coyotes, bears, and bobcats help reduce threats associated with overpopulation.
According to the Adirondack Ecological Center,
Winter activity, mainly foraging, is more likely in late afternoon. After snowfall, the winter diet consists of woody browse – the twigs and stems of seedlings, saplings and shrubs. An adult white-tailed deer requires approximately 5-7 lb of food per day. Energy demands vary seasonally, and are greatest for pregnant and lactating females, for males in the autumn rut, and for all individuals during severe winter weather.
So this winter, when you’re in the Smokies, don’t be discouraged! Pack up a lunch to take in the car, or get take out, and take a drive into the Park! Cades Cove is an especially good place to see deer. Go during the warmest part of the day. Begin about lunch-time, and drive slowly! You’ll be traveling through at the perfect time to see plenty of deer! Enjoy, and take pictures! How many deer did you see on your last drive through Cades Cove? Did you see a lot of deer in another part of the Park? Tell us about it!