It is incredible to think that just a century ago there were less than a million deer in North America. Having grown up in small country towns where deer season was an important event, it is hard to think that at one point they were almost endangered. Now there are over 30 million deer in North America, in some places they have exceeded their carrying capacity and have begun moving into suburban areas. Even though White Tailed Deer are one of the most widely known native animals, little is known about their communities and how they interact with each other. I was given a great opportunity to watch The Private Life of Deer and get an inside look into their lives: those that are living in suburbia and others in the wild.
Deer are still very mysterious creatures to me. I found it fascinating to hear that they are actually quite blind, only having 20/40 vision. They can discern shapes, but in many cases only certain colors register. In fact, their famous “deer in headlights” immobility is actually caused by bright light overpowering their visual cortex and locking down their brains! For what they lack in sight though, they make up for in their sense of smell which happens to be 1000x that of a human.
The Private Life of Deer aired on PBS on May 8th, but for those of us that were unable to catch it, they have released the DVD! Here is the original aired trailer.
The stories that The Private Life of Deer shares are fascinating. As part of the documentary they had given families in a densely populated suburban area digital cameras to capture how the deer interact. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have whole families of deer just sitting in my backyard, stealing the food from my garden or wandering around on the streets. It just seems kind of crazy! But there are areas in the north where deer are more than a majestic creature, they’re actually kind of a nuisance.
While other species may be negatively impacted by human development, it is just the opposite for the whitetails. “We as humans have created pretty much the perfect habitat for deer,” explains Cornell University’s Jay Boulanger. “These are areas that have a wide diversity of plants that deer can eat, versus, say, a rural forest.” Whitetail need to consume up to seven pounds of food daily and will eat practically anything, which frustrates backyard gardeners. Fences aren’t much of a deterrent as these nimble creatures can jump over eight foot obstacles.
This lovely documentary also shares the beauty and elegance of the “ghost deer”, the white tailed deer with the albino gene that have mystified humans for centuries. It was amazing just watching the ghost doe disappear in the woods, I can see why so many people are in awe of them. In many ways they are like materialized mythical creatures.
Towards the end of The Private Life of Deer you hear a story about Blossom, a baby deer that was nursed back to health by two very loving people. They had taken care of her, allowing her the freedom to return to the woods even though she would come back periodically throughout her life. You see photos of her growing up, videos of her prancing through the house or playing with the dog. She was this fascinating creature that bridged their lives with ours and at one point you even see how she brings her deer family home to meet the family who had saved her life.
My tot actually enjoyed watching the documentary with me. Seeing the fawns and the large beautiful doe eyes pulled him in. It made me smile to myself, thinking of all the times that we show him these animals in books that are continents away when right in our backyard (maybe not literally) there are some of the most curious and mysterious creatures of all. It is nice that we’re finally getting to meet them.
You can grab The Private Life of Deer on DVD for $17.99 in the PBS Shop. I do encourage that if you purchase the DVD that you do so on PBS where funds are given to support innovative and educational programming for families.
I received a copy of the film for the purpose of reviewing. Opinions are my own and are not influenced by any form of compensation.