All posts tagged Rut

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

A mature white-tailed deer sporting large antlers stares at the camera. Image by Derek Stoner, October 23, 2011.

November in the world of the white-tailed deer is full of excitement and purpose.  The shortening of daylight triggers a surge in testosterone in the male deer (bucks) and the onset of estrous (breeding condition) in the females (does). 

Mother Nature times this event carefully so that 6 months from now, all of the baby deer (fawns) will be born at the same time in mid-May to early June.  The period of white-tailed deer breeding activity is known as the rut, a fascinating time in the life of the most-studied species of animal in the world.

Two white-tailed bucks run around during the rut, searching for does to breed. Image by Derek Stoner.

Be on the lookout for lots of deer running around over the next few weeks. Night and day, there will be chases and pursuits as the bucks search for females to breed.  The unfortunate result of all this racing around is that a lot of deer are hit by cars while crossing roads.  This is a time of year that car insurance companies dread! 

Have an interesting deer sighting or encounter to share with us? Please write in the “Comments” section and tell us your story.

By Jason Beale, Manager, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center

I set out to the Delaware Nature Society’s newest natural area, the Isaacs-Greene Preserve, with the intention of getting some photos of deer scrapes and rubs to write about their annual breeding season, the  rut.  However, as it often happens in nature, other discoveries present themselves as well.

Line of buck rubs. Look closely to see another rub in the upper left corner.

I did indeed find signs of the rut.  Rubs are found on small trees where bucks have used their antlers to remove strips of bark.  This serves two purposes.  It helps the buck shed the remaining velvet from his antlers and deposit scent from glands on the head to mark his territory.

Buck scrape. Notice overhanging vegetation above the scrape, a common association.

Scrapes are areas on the ground, usually a few feet in diameter, where a buck clears the ground and urinates to leave his scent.  Bucks often thrash the vegetation overhead and may use low hanging twigs to deposit scent from their pre-orbital glands in the corner of their eyes.  Does visit scrapes and urinate in them to let bucks know that they are ready to mate.  Both rubs and scrapes are often found along a well-used trail and are checked frequently by the attending buck.

This beaver made frequent tail slaps and "swim-bys" while I was in the area.

I next stopped by the Beaver Pond which was originally an irrigation pond created by damming Johnson’s Branch.  I was greeted by a loud tail slap, possibly a way to warn other beavers and animals of my approach.  The beaver then proceeded to swim toward me in a repeating crossing pattern punctuated by more tail slaps.  Beavers are often regarded as nocturnal or crepuscular (active around dawn and dusk), but where human contact is uncommon, they may be diurnal.

Otter scat containing fish scales and crayfish on


I followed the edge of the pond and came to a River Otter “haul-out” site. These are areas that otters frequent, usually along an open bank, to deposit scat, make scent mounds, and roll around.  This area has shown steady use for the few years that I’ve visited the site.

Northern River Otters at Reynolds Pond. Photo by Trevor Metz.


We’ll continue to maintain the Isaacs-Greene Preserve as a private conservation area, but we will begin offering forays by foot and canoe to the public starting in the spring.  However, we have already added the site into the Abbott’s Mill Nature Center Weekly Walk rotation.  We meet at the center parking lot every Thursday at 8am and hope you can join us.