Skull no. 4: White-tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus

Description:  White-tailed Deer wiki

A deer’s powerful legs allow it to run at speeds of up to 40 Miles per hour and jump fences up to 9 feet tall.  At a run, a deer can broad jump 30 feet.

The positioning of the eye sockets on a deer provides a range of vision close to 310 degrees; however, this means that they are not able to focus on the same object with both eyes, resulting in poor depth perception.  Whitetails are believed to be completely color blind.

Deer are the only animals on the planet with antlers.  Antlers are the fastest growing tissue on earth.  A whitetail buck’s antlers can grow up to half an inch per day.

Some experts believe the whitetail deer’s hearing is so good they can determine how far away a sound was made. Their ears can turn in any direction without moving their heads.

Deer can detect odors and scents from several hundred yards away.  A deer licks its nose to help keep it moist.  Scent particles stick to a wet nose, helping the deer to smell better.

When free of predators and hunting pressure, deer can double in population every year.  Just 2 deer when left alone can produce up to 35 deer in as little as 7 years.

Where I got it:  When we first moved to Eugene, we were so excited to be back among the trees!  Boise’s nickname is “The City of Trees.”  I upset quite a few people by asking where they were.  Conversely, Portland is the “City of Roses.”  I’m pretty sure I saw more roses in Boise than I did in Portland.  What gives?  I guess they’re following the American political tradition of naming something the exact opposite of what it is (e.g. “Affordable” Care Act).

Anyhow, we moved in the summer, so we immediately set about exploring the vast forested areas all around us (one adventure led to the worst case of poison oak ever, but that’s a different blog).  During one of our excursions, we found a public park (with a crazy play structure) and as we made our way back down the hill, we left the park through the meadow behind it, with complete disregard for private property.  As the grass got taller and turned into shrubs, we found ourselves picking our way through a disappearing deer path.  I was also keeping an eye on the not-to-distant houses; having just spent a year in Idaho, I was nervous we’d piss off a gun owner hell bent on protectin’ his property.  One of the kids said (I don’t remember which, and it doesn’t matter):  “look – a deer!”  (suburban deer are a common sight in Eugene, which should have informed me that there are no irate gun owners to be leery of).  I looked around, but I didn’t see any deer.  “Where?”  “There!” pointing to the ground.  Sure enough, there was a full-grown white-tailed  doe not more than a dozen feet away, clearly dead. It must’ve been there a while, because there wasn’t any smell.  Unfortunately, I had not had the foresight to bring my hammer, 2×4, and blunt ax with me (see previous post).  I made the kids help me look around for a sharp rock.  This is one of those times that it’s helpful to give specific instruction when directing children; dime-sized angular pebbles, while pretty, were NOT what I was after.  We found a “sharp” rock, and I tried sawing through the leathery neck.  The rock crumbled pretty quickly; the hide remained intact.  As (in uffish thought) I stood there, the kids pointed out the “No Trespassing” signs everywhere and asked if it was okay for us to be here.  So, I took the kids home – no sense in scarring them further; there would be time for that later.  I had to get back here and take care of business.  The walk home took FOREVER.  When I got there, I grabbed a sharp knife (I’d gotten smarter), jumped in the car, and drove back up the hill.  I parked around the corner from the “Private Property.”  Sneaking back into the meadow, I must have looked a bit like Belushi in Animal House.  I cut off the deer head as quickly as I could, tossed it in a bag (paper; plastic bags are outlawed in Eugene) and headed home.  I still had half-decaying coyote and fox skulls in the front yard, so I added the deer to my macabre landscaping and let nature take its course.

The odd thing about this particular deer is that all of its front teeth are chipped.

Chipped Teeth

Chipped Teeth

I’m not sure if that’s a result of my neglect, something relating to this its death, or some other thing I’m too uneducated to guess at.  A fascinating thing about ruminants is that they lack upper incisors and instead have a hard pad in their upper front jaw.  Deer skulls have huge irregularly shaped holes just in front of their eyes that makes them look like they are broken or missing bone pieces.

Infraorbital Foramen

Infraorbital Foramen

No amount of google searching tells me why.  Of course, my amount of searching may be lazier than yours.  They also have a deep pit between this hole and the eye socket which houses their preorbital or lacrimal gland.  This is one of seven (!) scent glands white-tailed deer have.  In reading about these smelly animals, I couldn’t help thinking about our obsession with smelling ourselves.  No one admits it or talks about it, but sometimes when you scratch yourself in your sweaty and/or oily areas, you give a sniff.  Or if you don’t, the urge is there.  Why is that?  Why do we like to smell ourselves?  Why don’t we ever have the urge to smell someone else’s?  And why do we universally not talk about it?  Uncle Tyler is sure it has something to do with the whitetails’ seven scent glands.

Lastly, since I’m not really sure of the legality of all these activities, I have two things to say:

  • All of these events took place over seven years ago (or whatever the statute of limitations is in my area)
  • None of these events actually happened – everything here is false (but the upcoming story about our geriatric rabbit is all true!).

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