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Snowy Food Plots and White-tailed Deer

Snowy Food Plots and White-tailed Deer

Snowy Food Plots

We’ve been waiting for snowy food plots to learn how to the wildlife will react to the food we’ve provided. There are turnip and radish tops above snow but as you can see, the deer are pawing through the snow to get to grass. Unfortunately we don’t know what kind of grass seed was in the seed mix.

snowy food plot, white-tailed deer, Maine, food plots in winter
snowy food plots, deer, deer in winter food plots

snowy food plots, snowshoe hare tracks in snowThe deer have flattened one food plot, their favorite, and moved into the larger plot behind the house. The smaller plot was full of kale and oats, apparently the does and fawns’ favorites. They ate the seed heads from the oats and the leaves from the kale, leaving the kale ribs standing. Most of the ribs and oat plants are gone now. Now that we have snowy food plots the deer paw through the snow to get to food. They seem to favor grass over turnip and forage radish tops. When the grass is gone we expect them to pull up the turnip and radish roots. The roots they miss will die and improve the soil.

The short-antlered buck was here. It’s always good to see the bucks. Splay, the big old doe that’s fat and round looks like she’s packed on enough calories to last two winters. Good for her!

Snowshoe Hares

There are a lot of snowshoe hares this year. Remember the kits? I find their tracks near the wood yard. It’s easy to tell them from the others because they’re much smaller. The tracks above are from an adult hare. Hares are in the snowy food plots eating tops off turnip and a little grass. None of the animals want anything to do with pumpkins yet. That’s unusual. Maybe they’ll be the last thing eaten before the deer move on to their winter feeding grounds.

I hope to harvest one or two hares before the season closes at the end of March. They’re hard on the fruit trees in winter and the garden in summer. While I won’t be growing an outdoor garden, they can ruin the food plot as the tender shoots pop up. I’ll be looking for hares in the food plot only, not going into the woods to find them. I doubt I could find them without a hound and Zoey’s ears turn off when she’s behind a hare. She doesn’t hear a word we say yell.

Elsewhere on the homestead

I’ve made one wreath so far. I’ll make more today, finish decorating the tree that I haven’t told you about yet, and make a soup for supper. I haven’t been to the freezer yet. I’m going with whatever suitable soup meat I see first being the kind of soup I make. It could be caribou thanks to most generous Cristina, turkey or chicken we raised, or moose thanks to a friend who hit a moose. I wish I were baking bread today but since we still have half of a sour dough seven grain loaf there’s no need to bake.

What’s happening at your place today?

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Snowshoe Hare Kits

Snowshoe Hare Kits

Snowshoe Hare Kits

Last week, in the midst of our quest to add beauty to the homestead, Steve backed the bush hog under a clump of wild apple, pine, spruce and black cherry trees. Ava and Zoey followed their noses to a young porcupine two days earlier, and Zoey came out with quills in her nose, lip and mouth. We got them out but don’t think ZoMonster knows what happened since it was dark, and that she’ll do it again. We needed to clean out the area to discourage the porcupine from sticking around. We weren’t expecting snowshoe hare kits.

I stood by, watching for the porcupine. Steve motioned like a one-armed windmill, pointing in the direction of the pond. “There’s a fuzzy lump running over there,” he shouted over the bush hog and tractor.  A moment later another fuzzy lump ran toward the fire pit. Snowshoe hare kits!snowshoe hare, kit, leveretI didn’t know how much I didn’t know about snowshoe hares, and thinking their nest was destroyed, I scooped them up to keep them safe. “Rob,” he said, “you can’t keep wild bunnies. It was like he’d never met me… I called our warden to get permission to keep the little cuties to be sure they were eating and drinking on their own, and to figure out where we’d let them go. They couldn’t go back to the clump of trees, the underbrush was nearly decimated, and they needed protection from Zoey. If Ava found them she’d give them a proper bath before gently lugging them to me. Zoey would think “squeaky toy!” and it wouldn’t end well.

If You Care, Leave Them There

They spent the night nestled in straw in a cage in the shed, food and water beside them. Maybe we’d take them up on Democrat Ridge. With eyes open, fully furred, and able to hop, they’d be fine without their mother. They must have been close to leaving the nest, I thought. I was wrong.

A little research clued me in. Snowshoe hares are born fully furred, eyes open and able to hop unlike the naked and helpless rabbits I know well. Their proper name as babies is leveret. I’ll stick to kit. They’re born in a “nest” but then separate and remain nearby, a method of staying safe. They come back together when the mother returns to nurse them.

What had I done? I’d picked up and snuggled these nearly newborn hares. I couldn’t release them somewhere else, they need their mother. Ignorance usually isn’t bliss.

In the morning I dragged brush into the clump, took the hares back, and I let them go. Had I completely screwed this up and condemned them to death by dehydration? Long story short, they’re fine. I saw the snowshoe hare kits with their momma this morning, at the edge of the grass. I sat down to watch them until eventually the littles hopped separately back to the clump and momma went back to the woods. She’ll stay away from them until she returns to nurse them tonight.

Ava and Zoey are staying away. They pass the clump of trees on their way to see if there’s anything in the live trap (a skunk we were unaware of on Friday morning, thankfully found by Steve at 4 am, before he took the dogs out). “Stay out of there” is enough to keep them away. The hares should leave their clump when they’re about a month old so we’ll be keeping an eye on the dogs over there for a few more weeks. Living with wildlife is never dull, especially when they’re as cute as snowshoe hare kits.