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The Wild(Life) Side of Jeeping

The Wild(life) Side of Jeeping - Episode 3

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You are bouncing down the road when you notice that someone has thrown a white rag into a bush near the trail. As you begin to get angry at the ignorant jackass that littered up you favorite trail, the rag suddenly is gone. You stop to look closer and upon stopping, a whitetail deer bolts from it's cover and makes for the next county.

Episode 3 - Colorblind

Many animals are naturally colored in ways to hide themselves from predators, inlcuding the two-legged kind of predators. Being hard to see can also be a disadvantage. It's hard to attract a mate and make more of yourself if the opposite sex can't find you. Sometimes some animals may also want to be visible to alert other animals to danger, as in the case of our whitetail deer.

Whitetails are often accused of "waving the flag" as they leave. This happens when they raise their tail show off a white patch on their rump and underside of the tail. This is thought by many people to be a warning to other deer in the area to flee from the perceived danger. Even without exposing this bright white area, most species of deer have coloring, that with a little training of your eye, can actually assist you in seeing them.

In my area we have primarily coastal blacktail deer, in some places mixed with muleys. These blacktail have a rounded, lighter colored area on their rump that is always exposed due to their tail being much smaller than whitetails. In the summer, their summer fur is a tan color that rarely matches the color of the surrounding dirt. In the spring, the tan makes a striking contrast to the green of the surrounding vegitation. As any interior designer will tell you, one brown is not the same as another. With a little pratice observing the wildlife in your area, you will find that most wildlife has a distinct shade of it's natural color which can be unique in a landscape. Once your eye gets practiced finding this color, you might be suprised how little of an animal you have to be able to see in order to find them. For example our deer may have a bush it is hiding behind, but if only one bush in the meadow has a spot of brown behind it, that bush deserves a second look.

In other species, opposite sexes may be colored completely different. It is next to impossible to see a female pheasant laying down in grass that is as tall as the bird or taller. They are drab and have stripes mimicing the pattern of growing grass, one of pheasants favorite cover. This gives them great protection from predators while sitting on a nest of eggs trying to make more pheasants. This doesn't mean you have to give up on seeing pheasants while driving. Males sacrifice their safety in order to impress the females (sounds familiar?). Practicing finding the brightly colored males in a field can help you recognize other cues that can assist you in finding hens. Things your eye will learn to recognize in males, such as shape, will work with both sexes.

Since very few animals are as talented as chameleons, you might be suprised how often the one size fits all camoflague most animals are given does not quite blend in to the surrounding world. So take a little extra time, drive a little slower, and look out those side windows as you crawl up the trail. You might be suprised how adding a little color to your life might help you find another reason to get the family together and go Jeeping!
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