ASK THE DNR: Why does a deer's coat change colors over the year
Q. Why does the fur coat of a deer change colors depending on the time of year -- a reddish color in the spring and brown in the fall? A. The deer's coat is designed to provide both a means for thermoregulation and camouflage. Summer coats appear...
Q. Why does the fur coat of a deer change colors depending on the time of year -- a reddish color in the spring and brown in the fall?
A. The deer's coat is designed to provide both a means for thermoregulation and camouflage. Summer coats appear reddish and are thin, allowing deer to better cope with heat stress. In the fall, deer begin a process of molting, which is triggered by hormonal changes that reflect the changing seasons. The reddish summer coat turns into a faded gray or brown color as the new winter coat begins to grow. The new coat is comprised of two layers. The outer guard hairs are hollow, stiff and grow about 2 inches longer than the undercoat. The inner layer is soft and dense, which insulates deer from the cold weather and snow. Coat color, regardless of the season, tends to be darker in forested areas and lighter in agricultural areas where deer are exposed to more direct sunlight.
-- Michelle Carstensen
Carstensen is the DNR's wildlife health program supervisor.
Q. Not every bird species migrates from the North Country to warmer climates down south before winter sets in; some stay behind. Is there anything that can be done to help these brave birds survive winter?
A. An easy plan for winter bird feeding is to provide three main choices of food -- large seeds, small seeds and suet. Black-oil sunflower seeds and cardinal mixes have the greatest appeal to the broadest variety of winter birds and contain a high-energy content.
Water is a critical ingredient of a winter-feeding program. There are excellent birdbaths with heating elements and thermostats available from bird-feeding supply stores. The heated water is primarily for drinking. Don't worry about birds freezing if they bathe on a cold winter day because native songbirds seem smart enough not to bathe when the wind chill is 40 below.
For more information on winter bird feeding, check out the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/birdfeeding/winter .
-- Carrol Henderson
Henderson is the DNR's nongame wildlife program supervisor.