Mariton: Many Colored Coat

June 15, 2019

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.

This buck is growing antlers and losing its winter coat.

In the spring people often tell me about deer that look sickly. After a couple of questions, I can usually narrow down the malady:  winter is over and deer are molting their winter coats.  It looks pretty ragged as it is replaced with the spring coat.  Deer (especially does) often rub the hair off of the ribs making them look even more gaunt.  Using the trail camera in the same location you can see some of the variation in coats.

Another buck with a “worn out” coat.

This doe has her red summer coat.

When the summer coat grows in it looks so new.  Deer look sleek and healthy again.

Two does with their new winter coats. They blend in and look luxuriant.

Two does with their luxuriant winter coats. They blend in and look stockier.

The same thing happens in September, but I don’t get the calls then.  First, deer are losing “short” hairs and growing in longer hair, so the molt is not as noticeable.  In September, the woods are full of foliage, so people don’t get as good a look at deer.  The winter coat weighs more, and is thicker than the summer coat.  It is loaded with insulation for the winter months.  Comparing the above photos while looking at the background and forest floor reveals much about concealment.