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Summer Homes – Part 1

Posted: July 15, 2016

A lake house, a beach cottage, or a mountain retreat - some of us are lucky enough to spend summer far from the biting winter. Turns out some deer do too!

We have shared with you information about annual and seasonal home range size  and that Pennsylvania deer do not yard up in winter.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t move around on occasion. Some of our collared deer appear to have a little snowbird in them.

And a couple of the ladies vacation in the same location every year (maybe they own a time share?).

Technology has allowed us to spy on deer. To deer, we might as well be the CIA, NSA, or FBI. Our GPS collars regularly collect locations according to the schedule that we set – every 7 hours Jan-Sep, every 3 hours Oct-Nov, and every 20 minutes during bear and rifle deer season. Once marked, we follow them 24/7…well it’s kind of 3.5/7 but you get the picture. And we’ve been following some of these deer for more than 2 years.

We’ll omit their bathroom schedule and just cover the big stuff starting with the 1-percenter-deer – just like their human counterparts, these deer own multiple “homes” and don’t need a mortgage.

They are also called 1-percenters because it’s a very small percentage of deer that exhibit this type of behavior.

Female 12815

We captured 12815 on Rothrock State Forest on January 31, 2014 in the middle of our study area. But she didn’t stay there for long. On March 19th she headed north crossing Rte 322 and ended up in a woodlot south of Rte 45 near Old Fort. She stayed there until December 9th when she returned to the Rothrock State Forest. Like many, her summer home is in the north – see snowbird!

And like those traveling I-95 to Florida and back, she took the same route north and south crossing Rte 322 in the exact same spot both times (as best as we can tell from our location data).

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Like human 1-percenters, she appears to be financially-independent and mortgage-free as she still owned both homes in 2015! On March 26th, 2015 she headed north to her summer home and returned to the south on Christmas day. She returned north a day later (she must have forgotten something).

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In January 2016 she made a few more short trips south of Rte 322 (perhaps she was moving some larger items to her southern abode), but she was permanently settled in her winter retreat by the end of the month. As per usual on March 10th she packed her bags and headed north. She’s probably sipping a cocktail now on her porch enjoying the summer breeze.

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This behavior in a deer is extremely unusual and very risky. She crosses Rte 322, a very busy highway, multiple times. However, her “I-95” crosses the road at a woodlot and a wetland. Whoever gave her directions did a good job.

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Do not ask me to explain this behavior – any theory is just speculation. But having a summer home is as good as any. We also don’t know where people might be feeding or the location of her birth.

Summer homes are lovely but let’s face it.  You rarely go alone or enjoy peace and quiet.  There are kids and company.  Entertaining can be a full time job.  Unless you are a bachelor…

-Duane Diefenbach and Jeannine Fleegle


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