It is January at the Land School and everyone is hungry, including the white-tailed deer of our neighborhood. Last week, from New Year's Eve to New Year's Day, the white pine planting was transformed (fingers crossed not permanently) by the deer eating the needles and buds.
During the winter months, deer undergo a shift in diet, switching from the leafy greens of summer to a more fibrous diet of tree/shrub buds, seeds, and nuts. This is evident not only by observing the eat marks on plants, but also in their scat. The greens diet produces a squished "Milk Dud" appearance while the high fiber diet produces the seemingly ever present piles of oblong spheres.
Other deer signs at the Land School include tracks, trails (often right on or through our own ski trails), and "beds" or depressions in the snow about the size of a curled up deer (if you are lucky, you'll find one with hoof, leg and nose prints, hair, and a bit of scat!).
As for our herd of deer, perhaps this winter has been a challenging one to find enough food as we continue to see many scavenging signs very close to the road with the pines and very close to the Farmstead. We'll be monitoring the population as the season progresses to help guide us on how to best protect the young plants we would like to flourish (and our summer veggies!). To protect what remains of the white pines, I've stapled paper around the terminal or end buds (many of which were left; a deer's version of sustainable harvest?) and the remaining lateral (side) buds.
|Deer tracks abound and pine needles do not.|
|The guinea fowl were creating the sounds I wanted to to express my frustration at what happened to our little trees.|
|Most of the terminal buds are still there though!|
|Bud capped pines and our ski trail.|