Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Phinney Ridge Deer: Bambi and Faline Scamper in Seattle

Eagle dining on pigeon on utility pole across from my house
We're blessed with an abundance of wildlife in Seattle. Orcas swim through Puget Sound, river otters cavort in West Seattle, and Pacific giant octopi lurk offshore. Ospreys nest in Ballard, peregrines on downtown buildings, and bald eagles fly over my neighborhood every day. My feeders are visited by a variety of songbirds, who keep their eyes peeled for the local Cooper's hawk. Salmon are currently thrashing their way upstream in Carkeek Park.

(And there are also squirrels, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, and the odd fox, though these poor critters rarely stir anyone to wax on rapturously about them.)

Even so, it's a bit of a surprise when larger varieties of wildlife show up on city streets. People still talk about "Urban Phantom," the black bear that appeared in Ballard in 2009 and proceeded to take a northeastern trek through Seattle neighborhoods until it vanished somewhere past Shoreline. And the cougar that prowled Discovery Park in 2009, forcing closure of that park until the animal was captured, then released in the Cascade Mountain foothills.

I'm extremely dismayed that I wasn't out  walking the dog on a recent morning when the latest Large Ungulate sighting occurred: two blacktail deer, a buck and a doe, nonchalantly nibbling plants in backyards mere blocks from my home in my close-packed, car-filled urban neighborhood. (My friend R., however, was fortunately up and about and armed with a cell phone, and she kindly loaned me her images.)

The deer trotted through our neighborhood and made their way east to the University District and Wedgewood, mightily surprising people in those areas.

USFWS photo
I haven't found any stories about them since. There are, however, stories from a few years ago about deer living in a greenbelt in the Capitol Hill neighborhood southeast of us, which these two deer could easily access via bridge or by swimming across Portage Bay (deer are strong swimmers).
Blacktail deer (a subspecies of mule deer) are regular visitors to yards in suburban and rural Washington areas. Mule deer and blacktail deer are two of the five types of deer native to North America; the others are the white-tailed deer, the elk or wapiti, and the caribou. (I haven't seen white-tails in the area, but a herd of elk live at the local zoo just up the hill, and currently the local nursery has a pair of the caribou's cousin, reindeer, in residence for the Christmas season.)

Blacktails were frequent visitors to my parents' home on Bainbridge Island--so much so that they started making my mom grit her teeth and mutter when they ambled across their yard.

That's because the deer devoured her lilies, browsed leaves and twigs off saplings, and gobbled up pansies. One morning, she went outside to admire the daisies planted in a barrel on the lower deck, only to find that the deer had neatly trimmed all the petals off of them, leaving just the round, yellow disks teetering on spindly stalks.

 Any bitterness, however, usually evaporated and all was forgiven when the fawns showed up in spring.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome photos, although I still can't believe it. And fascinating information about the mountain lion and the bear!