Let me preface this post with a disclaimer. I am not a biologist. I just play one on TV.
Not really, but you understand.
This buck is the 'alpha' in the wild deer herd that frequents my place. He outweighs the other bucks by what looks to be about 30-50 lbs. He looks like he's on steroids compared to the next buck in line.
I have several friends that are hunters that would love to put him in their freezer because of that extra weight.
BUT--there tends to be a code among deer hunters that says you always leave the largest buck for future breeding. That ensures generations of healthy, good looking deer.
In this case, I'm beginning to wonder.
If he is the father of all the fawns that have been born in the last several years, something is not quite right in what he is passing along.
I have observed several things in his fawns for the last 3 years at least.
1. They often don't live a month.
2. If they do live, they don't grow properly.
3. The bucks that he throws are what is called 'spike' bucks (single antlers with no branches).
I realize that he only provides 50% of the genetics for these fawns, but could all the does in the herd have something wrong with their 50%? Unlikely.
The only surviving fawn this year is tiny. I wonder if she'll make it through the winter.
The fawn in my header is from last summer. He did not make it despite his healthy appearance.
Weather could be said to be a factor this year. Extreme heat and drought have caused food sources for the deer to be incredibly hard to find.
The same cannot be said of last spring and summer (2010) though. We only had a couple days above 100* and we had plentiful rains. His fawns did not survive that summer either. Again, only a couple did and they are tiny this year. They look like they didn't grow at all over the winter.
The twist in this story: We have far, far too many deer for the acreage that is available for them. The fact that the fawns are dying off or not thriving is actually keeping the herd smaller.
On one hand, the big buck's genetics could be keeping the population in check.
On the other hand, many of the deer are suffering because of it.
The does carry a fawn to term---taxing her body during the winter months, only to have the fawn die.
The fawns die or are abandoned, I don't know which.
The question then becomes: Do we cull this buck to bring a healthier genetic base to the deer or leave him be so the general population stays where it is?