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Deer ‘teens’ on their own; turtles make their move

Northwoods Notebook

It’s a dangerous time of year for yearling deer prone to wandering onto highways. (Betsy Bloom/Daily News photo)

Before does began dropping fawns this spring, they likely bid goodbye to the ones that have followed them through the past year.

For adolescent bucks, it’s almost guaranteed the doe will see him off, perhaps none too gently. If allowed to linger until he’s older, the buck would have no problem trying to mate with his mother.

A yearling doe, however, may be allowed to stick around. Several online sources mention deer are known to form family groups of related females. And about 50% of last year’s female fawns in the Upper Peninsula actually will give birth themselves, typically to a single fawn in a first pregnancy rather than the twins or triplets that mature does usually produce, said Brian Roell, a wildlife biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

But in most cases, these deer teenagers in May will be sent out on their own to figure out survival when mom isn’t there to guide them. Some seem up to the task. Others appear clueless, wandering around during the day, standing in the middle of roads or galloping out in front of traffic to stay with other deer.

It’s why roadkill seems to rise this time of year — and a little depressing, seeing yearlings that survived the challenges of an Upper Peninsula winter only to end up the loser in a vehicle collision. But does have multiple fawns each year for a reason: many won’t make it.

Some flocks of Canada geese are late to the migration game this spring. (Betsy Bloom/Daily News photo)

Still, it’s worth remembering an array of young animals — yearling deer now, second-summer bears in a few weeks, fox and raccoon kits by late summer — will be attempting to figure out life on their own over the next few months. Do them and your vehicle a favor by paying attention and perhaps slowing down when driving.

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Keeping with the theme of watching out for wildlife on the road, June also is time for turtles to haul out and lay eggs.

So here’s a reprint of advice from Jim Harding, an adjunct wildlife specialist at the Michigan State University Museum, for helping turtles safely cross a road:

— As always, don’t risk yourself in trying to assist the turtle. If the turtle can cross the road without help, let it.

— If it’s safe, try to take the turtle in the direction it was headed, he said, “as long as the turtle’s chosen direction isn’t taking it into worse danger. There are times when turtles don’t choose their paths wisely, in which case I may take the turtle a little farther, away from the road.

— If it’s necessary to move the turtle, handle it gently. For all turtle species except snappers and softshells, grasp the turtle along the shell edge near the midpoint of its body.

— If it’s a snapping turtle — one of the most common types in the region — “it’s true, don’t lift by tail,” Harding said. “Grabbing the rear of the shell is tricky, and the turtle will not appreciate that you are trying to help it. Thus for big snappers, I often opt to push them off the road with a stout stick, or tease the turtle into biting an old towel or jacket and dragging it off the road as it hangs on.”

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Earlier this week, several flocks of Canada geese could be seen passing overhead. One group made for vocal overnight guests on Six Mile Lake before departing in the early morning.

Yet this seems late for goose migration, considering a number of pairs in the area already have well-grown goslings. Canada geese often are among the first birds to return in late winter and early spring.

Ryan Brady, Natural Heritage Conservation Program biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, addressed this new influx in his weekly birding report: “Have you noticed flocks of Canada geese moving north overhead? These are ‘molt migrants,’ i.e. failed and non-breeders without goslings that are headed to resource-rich areas of Canada to molt new feathers.”

The Canada geese that remain here will undergo a molt this month or in July that can render them flightless for 20 to 40 days.

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