A dominant doe leads the herd

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The most alert whitetail deer in the herd is the dominant doe. The dominant doe is the deer herd's leader and decision maker. She is generally the oldest and wisest doe in the herd. She leads the herd from place to place in search of the three things the herd needs to survive -- food, shelter and water.

When danger is identified, the dominant doe is the one who decides when and which way to run. The herd will follow her. She is most often the first deer to spot danger, stamp a front foot and snort loudly.

In urban areas, the dominant doe is the teacher who directs her herd across streets at safe times. If the dominant doe is removed from the herd, her less experienced followers, especially yearlings, instantly become more apt to step or run into the path of a passing vehicle.

In cities where overpopulation of whitetails has become problematic, it is questionable whether a dominant doe should be eliminated from her herd. With her taken out, the remaining deer are less organized and it becomes likely that the number of vehicle/deer collisions will increase.

A major argument for eliminating the dominant doe from the herd is the fact that she normally will give birth to twins or triplets. Smaller younger does often give birth to only one fawn per year.

A whitetail herd normally will consist of five to a dozen deer.During winter small herds will sometimes join and form much larger herds.

The dominant doe I have photographed here had a following of her twins, who stayed close to her, and four other antlerless deer. They were grazing just out of the photo to the left.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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