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Rut madness

Cellphones and the internet have made finding a girlfriend or boyfriend very different for today’s youngsters. Now they can phone or email each other, or even use dating websites by filling out information.

Back in the old days, before cellphones and home computers, youngsters went to dances, passed notes written on paper and had their friends act as messengers.

Now is the time of year when deer are sending messages, but they have very different ways of finding mates. Right about the middle of November is the peak of the deer breeding season known as the rut. That’s when bucks are seeking does.

To advertise his availability a buck will make scrapes on the ground, clearing away leaves and grass, often under a branch that hangs down. It will rub its scent glands on its head or lick the branch while peeing on the ground.

This leaves a message for other bucks and does, which will smell the scrape and branch. For another buck the message may be that “This territory is taken, stay out.” For a doe the message may be, “Hey, I’m around if you would like to meet.”

Bucks also communicate by rubbing their antlers, and glands near their antlers, on trees. These are called rubs. You may have noticed rubs on smaller trees as you’ve walked through the woods. They are usually about 4 feet off the ground. These rubs also mark territory and leave messages for does.

Bucks will also grunt as they walk, it sounds almost like a pig grunting, as another way to let does and other bucks know they are around.

Once a buck finds a doe that is ready to mate, it will stay close by and even fight other bucks that come close to the doe. This is called tending.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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