Deer cross the road in the Vicksburg National Military Park Tuesday evening.
Photo by Carter Kemp - Submitted to The Vicksburg Post
~Article written by Danny Barrett, Jr., about deer sightings being high despite the hot weather.
Look, on the roads, in the curve, it's a deer and it has babies. And it's June.
Southern whitetail deer, which typically move the most during fall and winter, are being seen in unusually high numbers, and a state biologist says two main reasons exist.
Dry weather is forcing does to search farther and wider for places to give birth and a robust deer fly population is making the deer move to avoid the bothersome pests, said Justin Thayer, deer program biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
"With a lack of rain, water content in forage decreases, as does the palatability of many plants as they began to dry up in drought conditions," Thayer said.
Temperatures averaged 74.6 degrees in Vicksburg in May, 1.8 degrees warmer than normal, according to the National Weather Service. The high temperature recorded in Vicksburg Tuesday was 92 degrees.
Rainfall totals hit 5.78 inches for the month, eight tenths of an inch above normal but with all significant rain packed into three of the month's 31 days.
Drought conditions that lower forage value and water content make whitetails move more - especially does - to meet their metabolic needs, Thayer said.
Movement within families of does might have spread wider during the month, which could have led to increased movement, Thayer said. Mean fawning dates for does in Warren County are around mid-July, he said.
Deer flies and horseflies, Thayer said, are a hindrance to "nearly anything with a pulse that will stand long enough for the flies to bite."
The deer fly's size is about midway between a housefly and a horsefly. When they emerge in late spring and early summer, Thayer said, they can get whitetail moving more than normal.
"Many Mississippians who have walked through the woods recently would likely vouch for this fact right now!" Thayer said. "Thus, when seasonal biting insets such as deer flies are at their peak and agitate whitetails, the deer will often seek out open fields, pastures, or even open roads at times to escape the harassment."
In Warren County, those roads are most often in the main drags leading in and out of the city, such as Culkin Road north of town or Nailor Road to the south. It's hard to quantify sightings from one year to the next, said Jason Tatum, director of the E-911 Dispatch Center, but summertime deer are uncommon.
"I have seen numerous deer this year, especially around Culkin Road," Tatum said. "Even around mailboxes and in people's yards."
In May, dispatchers took 14 calls from people who hit deer while driving. Last May,19 "vehicle-versus-deer" reports came in, though the number is skewed by record flooding on the Mississippi River that month. Wildlife migration along the river prompted sighting of deer, wild boar and alligators and spiked the insect population in 2011.
Deer sightings have been regular in recent weeks in the Vicksburg National Military Park, where clearing of some brush land is underway to restore the hills and valleys to is appearance during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. firstname.lastname@example.org
Vicksburg, MS ~ Vicksburg National Military Park