DEER POOF

If there was a mammals awards show on, say, Animal Planet, maybe something called “The Mammies,” and I was laying down odds for who’d win for Most Fecund Species, I think the White-tail Deer of New England would have the category locked up, hoofs down.

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Forget about rabbits. They’re reproductive amateurs by comparison. Have you ever heard anyone say “we have a serious rabbit problem here in New England”? Either the rabbits here mistakenly think they’re living in China under a strict one-child policy (计划生育政策), or they should just be nominated for Best Prey, because somebody’s eatin’em as fast as they’re makin’em.

By comparison, the White-tail Deer population in New England (which has no predatory pressure other than SUVs) has gone Malthusian. So much so that towns have resorted to aerial DPSM surveys (as in “Deer Per Square Mile”), and annual herd-culling huntsThe latest reports seem to indicate a slight ebb, but my back yard begs to differ.

Deer (we used to see one or two at a time, and think, awww…cute!) now travel in small “wilding” herds capable of defoliating entire properties overnight. They’re like hoof-born Agent Orange, de-greening everything in their path, and leaving nothing but twigs, deer ticks, and piles of scat which looks (nauseatingly) like oily mounds of these:

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In fact deer have become so populous here that their actual behavior seems to be evolving, season-to-season. They used to spook easily and bolt when approached. Now they not only seem not afraid of humans anymore; in their voracious hunt for sustenance, I find them looking at me with hollow-eyed hunger, as if they’re starting to wish they had sharper teeth.

A thematic, musical aside: I’m a fan of Deerhoof, and I’ve always wondered what inspired the name of their 2007 album Friend Opportunity:

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Could it be Fairfield County’s lush, annually-replanted properties, our local pro-bambi, anti-hunting sentiment, and the friendly opportunity to party like rock stars, eat and screw with cervine abandon, and occasionally stumble into pools. Or crash into cars?

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(Photo Credit: WestportNow contributor).

Which brings me to the source of this particular entry into longitude&gratitude. Although it has less to do with an accident than an accidental, um, discovery.

This past Saturday, I got up early and decided to buzz down to the Long Island Sound, and do a little dawn-patrol fishing for blues (all I got was one meager Tautog, but that’s another story). I rode down to the beach on my motorbike, leaving the house under a full moon and starry skies. It was cool enough to see tailpipe smoke from the few cars out on the road.

(Here’s my adventure-steed captured earlier in the week, before my usual morning activity).

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So as I rode down Compo South, right around Westport’s public Longshore Golf Course my hi-beams landed on a herd of deer standing in the roadway. Maybe 7 or 8 of them, with a few of the smaller ones nibbling grass on the shoulder.

I did a little throttle blip to encourage them to scatter, which they seemed to do reluctantly (see: attitudinal evolution of White-tailed deer, above). A few of them glanced back with annoyance; several moseyed to the side of the road. But one of them began jogging south on the pavement, in my lane, as if he (or she) was a small vehicle traveling down Compo South, on the way to go fishing before the kids got up.

The distance closed between me and this particular deercycle, my xenon headlight trained on his very white tail as he clambered along the double yellow line.

So I went for a bigger throttle blip to signal it was time to pull over and let me pass. And here’s what happened:

The deer accelerated. And at the exact moment he broke into a run, an unmistakeable wisp of smoke “poofed” out of his rear end into the cool October air.

A deer poof.

I was stunned and delighted, thinking I’d just witnessed the first real-life field observation of flatulence in Odocoileus virginianus. Who knew deer farted? I mean, I know they eat a lot of fiber, but who knew?

Apparently, the internet knew.

So much for a debut article in the journal Nature or a cameo on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (it’s back!)

Maybe I could at least get credit for coining a new term?

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