When people visit the Reserve, they always express surprise that we can identify the individual deer. Aside from KoKo who is easy to recognize given his chocolate colour, at first sight the rest of the deer look very alike.
Having worked with the bucks for over 19 months, we know that each one is quite different and unique in both appearance and personality.
Here’s how we tell them apart.
Max, the leader, is a large deer with one of the largest sets of antlers and a golden colour especially on his head and back of neck. He often stands in the middle of the herd, but never gets challenged by other bucks. (A challenge is when a deer lowers his head and antlers and moves towards another in a determined way. Sometimes the deer will tilt his head and show one eye to the other deer. )
Dandy, is usually the second in command. He is probably the largest deer in body size but his antlers don’t have the wide palmation of the other large deer. He is very calm.
Mike is next in herd hierarchy but sometimes he vies with Dandy to gain status to second. He looks quite a bit like Max and has large antlers. However, his right brow antler is bent over his right eye in an odd way caused by a collision with a barricade when the deer were being moved to Florida from Scotland Road in May last year. Mike is very social towards people. We hope his antlers return to normal this year.
Gulliver is another large deer with the largest palmation of antlers. He seems to be the big brother of Moki (one of our youngest and smallest) who is a constant companion. Gulliver will often let Moki “play fight/challenge” with him but never exerts the full power he could if the fight were for real. Gulliver likes to chase smaller deer at feeding time, doing his best to get all the food for himself, but he never challenges a deer that is larger than himself.
Murph is a large deer with exceptionally long antlers with good palmation and many spellers (or branches). He has a dark coat, but not quite as dark as KoKo. He is very independent and spends time away from the herd on his own. He is not that interested in people…can take or leave ‘em.
Bash is a large light-coloured deer with large antlers that have many spellers and very straight brow antlers. He, too, is somewhat independent and will leave the herd to go on his own. He likes to bully Buddy who is also light-coloured. Bash used to be very frightened of people, but he is becoming very social these days.
Ty has a compact body, a muddy brown colour and very wide palmated antlers with many spellers. Like Bash, he was very fearful of people when we first started working with the herd, now he doesn’t seem too worried by us. He never challenges large deer for food or water, but bullies all the other deer the same size or smaller than him.
Buddy is a medium-sized light coloured deer. His brow antlers turn inward instead of straight ahead which gives him a slightly cock-eyed, cute appearance. His personality is carefree and he’s very curious about people and what they are doing whether it be building a shelter, digging or hauling water. He will run away from food to get a good view of human beings at work.
EGee is a medium-sized deer with shorter palmated antlers, few spellers and long straight brow antlers. He has a dark brown winter coat with a splash of white on his right side where he was injured last winter. He is very social and calm and only occasionally will he bully George or KoKo at feeding time to get in the best position.
George looks like the other medium-sized deer in appearance except for his antlers this year which have little or no palmation. Our theory is that this odd antler formation was caused by the anti-inflammatory medication he was given last winter after suffering a “shoulder” injury. We hope that his antlers return to normal this year. George is definitely the most social of the deer and he can be a nuisance if you are working inside the fence as he has no fear of people and will invade human space quite easily.
KoKo is our most recognizable deer because he is very dark in colour and even in summer he has very faint “spots” on his chocolate-coloured back. He has a compact, you might say round body and he is very social and calm. He is the one most likely to be hanging out in the shelter of the woods rather than the person-made shelter attached to the barn. He seems to like to hang out with Ty or Buddy.
Moki is one of our youngest at 3 years of age. His antlers are palmated but smaller than all the other deer (except for Spike). His right brow antler bends to the right and this winter he lost the top of his left ear as a result of a tussle with Spike towards the end of the rut.
Spike is the other 3 year old with antlers similar to those of Moki. He is the only deer in our herd with a brown tail which makes him a “menil” fallow deer. Spike is social and curious and likes to hang out with George and fight with Moki.