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Science Wednesday: The Private Life of Deer

Tue, 01/14/2014 - 3:28pm -- WCVE

From coast to coast, some 30 million white-tailed deer make their home in the United States. Deer are the most highly studied mammals in the world, but does the typical homeowner with deer in the yard know how long deer can live? When they sleep? How many babies a doe can have each year?

Enter the hidden world of white-tailed deer outfitted with night-vision cameras and GPS tracking equipment to see them not as common backyard creatures, but as intelligent, affectionate family members.

Watch Nature: The Private Life of Deer, January 15 at 8:00 p.m. on WCVE PBS/WHTJ PBS. Check listings for additional air-times.

Watch on PBS Video

White-tailed deer seem to be always around us, whether they’re grazing alongside our roadways, feasting on plants in our backyards or darting into the woods, though these “neighbors” do like to protect their privacy. But if it seems as though we are seeing more whitetails these days, there’s a good reason. Just a century ago, there were less than a million deer in North America. Today, there are nearly 30 million.

While other species may be negatively impacted by human development, it is just the opposite for the whitetails. “We as humans have created pretty much the perfect habitat for deer,” explains Cornell University’s Jay Boulanger. “These are areas that have a wide diversity of plants that deer can eat, versus, say, a rural forest.” Whitetail need to consume up to seven pounds of food daily and will eat practically anything, which frustrates backyard gardeners. Fences aren’t much of a deterrent as these nimble creatures can jump over eight foot obstacles.