buck-in-rutAt Crossroads at Big Creek, we adhere to our board policy to avoid politics and to focus on science, history and the environment.   But goodness, we will be so glad when this campaign is over.  It seems every campaign year, maybe because national elections are held in November, I can’t help  but being reminded of THE RUT.  And every four years, I feel compelled to share some version of my nonpartisan observations.
Everybody in Wisconsin is familiar with THE RUT. Very soon, male deer–rendered insane by hormones and sex drive–vie among themselves for dominance. Usually, there is an established dominant buck and also  a contender which wants desperately to be the winning buck. Very often,  out of the blue….or in the case of deer… out of the woods, come a number of  unfamiliar bucks which may throw themselves into the fray, but drop out once they see they are outmatched. So as the annual deer breeding season comes upon us, deer go around acting like politicians.
First the travel! Just like candidates during campaigns, bucks start moving. They run and chase erratically, willy nilly, all over the countryside. (I would be remiss if I didn’t insert a gentle safety reminder here–drive carefully during the next few weeks, especially at dawn and dusk.)
Bucks rarely lock antlers in actual combat, but the do come together from time to time. They posture, snorting and stomping, call each other’s bluff and so on.  Before they do meet,  bucks spend hours  polishing their antlers in much the same way candidates polish their answers before a  debate.
Sometimes, deer leave chemical messages for each other. Scent glands on their foreheads, their hind legs and between their toes enable deer to publicized their ratings in the physical polls.  One whiff of the glandular material and another deer knows precisely what his  chances of winning or losing a confrontation might be.
Bucks don’t sling mud, but they make it. Look up the details; many buck behaviors fall into the “icky category. Just know that glandular  challenges can be somewhat repulsive.
Curiously, the does  seem to be somewhat detached and apathetic about the outcome of the contests for dominance. Female deer don’t have a vote and they seem not to care which buck is the victor and which is the biggest loser. Yet, in a very real way, the outcome of the battle of the bucks will affect the herd for generations.
The election is November 8, and whether of not you like the results, at least the political rut will be over.
Several naturalist led hikes, a Friday film and a Saturday Family Program will be offered this week.
Crossroads at Big Creek is an educational facility made up of the Big Creek Preserve, the Cove Preserve, and the Ida Bay Preserve. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan (just east of the Highway Roundabout) is open daily
2:00-4:00 and during scheduled events. The trails of all preserves are free and open to the public. For maps and information, visit www.crossroadsatbigcreek.org
Friday, November 4
9:00 Hike at Ida Bay
Join the naturalist for a gentle hike through the fall-fragrant mature forests of the Ida Bay Preserve. Meet at Zenith Street.  Free and open to the public.
2:00 Friday Film: Wisconsin Hometown Stories-Door County
The Friday afternoon film will be the wonderful television program which celebrates the history,  environment, and culture  of our wonderful peninsula. Free and open to the public.
Saturday, November 5
10:00 Family Program: Fossils at Big Creek
Join the naturalist for a indoor program followed by a short hike to Big Creek to look for fossils which lived in the Silurian Sea.
Wear shoes that can get wet. Free and open to the public.
Sunday, November 6
1:00  The Cove in Late Autumn
This gentle hike will follow the trail through the Cove Preserve to the dock and observation platforms. Wear shoes that can get wet. About an hour. Meet at the grass parking lot at the intersection of Utah Street and 20th Place.

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