Friday, November 30, 2007

The plight of the Hill Deer of California

On a calm spring day just around sunset if you look out onto the hillsides of Northern California you will most likely see a familiar sight. The Hill Deer of California have captured the hearts of all those that come into contact with them. A close relative of the Whitetail Deer and the Mull Deer, the Hill Deer of California have developed special adaptations to allow them to walk in the hilly terrain more easily. One of the more predominant adaptations is that one set of legs is typically shorter than the other allowing them to walk around the hillsides in a circular fashion while grazing. Scientists have dubbed these deer either LSSL or RSSL Hill Deer. LSSL (Left Side-Short Leg) and RSSL (Right Side-Short Leg). Herds are usually self-segregating through out the Northern California deer population and very rarely do deer from RSSL herds intermingle with deer from LSSL herds. Scientists believe that this is a natural process rather than a chosen one because deer with the legs on the left side of their body tend to graze in a counter-clockwise pattern around hillsides while deer with shorter legs on the right of their bodies tend to graze in the opposite direction.

Complications in deer herds occur when a fawn is born of parents from opposite legged herds. If a RSSL male and a LSSL female have offspring there is a 50% chance that the fawn will have legs that are shorter on the opposite side of its mother. When this happens the fawn is usually lost or abandoned by its mother because it is walking in the opposite direction while grazing. Every spring, when the new fawns are due to arrive the volunteers from the Hill Deer Adoption Agency are out in full force trying to locate as many orphaned fawns as possible before a predator or starvation kills them. Last year over 230-orphaned Hill Deer were located and placed with foster families in the state. Because of an exceptionally mild summer, a very prolific rutting season and abundance in the deer’s food supply, this seasons’ number of orphaned Hill Deer fawns is expected to be nearly double.

Since 1968, the Hill Deer Adoption Agency has been placing fawns that have been separated from the mothers and the rest of the herd with foster mothers and family that have the same side of legs that are shorter than the other. In recent years however there has been an increasing number of deer that are left sided short-legged or LSSL and there aren’t enough adoptive mothers to place the fawns with. For now the Hill Deer Adoption Agency is asking for volunteers to hand raise these orphaned deer until a more permanent solution can be put into place. Interested parties can call the Hill Deer Adoption Agency at (888) HILL DEER or (888) 499 4482 X 200 All volunteers must have easy access to a hillside for the fawns to be raised on.


Jeff Weidner
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh please - no one ever heard of natural selection? Counter clock wise or clock wise eating patterns? Let nature take its course and Mother with determine naturally what leg and what direction to eat is best for the herd.