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Country deer wander much more than their city cousins

February 1, 2018

When you live in a city or town, you don’t have to walk or ride in the car very far to get to a grocery store or restaurant to buy food.

If you live in the country, though, it may be a day’s trip to the nearest grocery store because you have to drive to the closest town. Depending on where you live, that could be a couple of miles to 50 miles or more.

It turns out that whitetail deer are kind of the same. Deer that live in the suburbs will travel much less to find food, shelter and water than deer that live out in the country. Scientists have shown this by capturing deer in Pennsylvania and putting tracking collars on them.

In the study, the researchers found that the average white-tailed deer that lived in areas with chopped up landscapes – with scattered roads, homes and woods like you find on the edges of town – the deer will roam only about one square mile.

This may be because people often build their homes on ground that has the best soil for growing plants, which the deer can eat.

In comparison, deer that lived out of town where there were fewer roads and houses would roam twice as much to find food, shelter and water. These areas where animals live most of their life are called their home range.

The exception to this was in highly productive farmed areas, where the deer had access to a lot of food – like a cornfield – in a small area. These deer would roam even less than the ones who lived near towns, maybe one-third to one-half of a square mile.

There is one time of the year that country and city male deer will wander farther than normal. That is during their fall breeding season, also called the rut. The bucks will travel more to find females.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com