Coue’s Deer in Sabino Canyon
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I went for a walk the other morning in Sabino Canyon. Tourist season is over at the canyon and the throngs of visitors that crowded the trails six weeks ago are gone. I had my chosen trail all to myself. I rounded a bend and almost bumped into a grazing deer. It was a little doe. She was fully engaged in nibbling on some dead grass and she paid almost no attention to me. I stopped to observe her and she walked slowly around me, coming within about five feet of me as she did.
This deer is a member of a southwestern subspecies of White-tailed Deer known as “Coue’s Deer.” These deer physically resemble their eastern cousins but they are very small. They have evolved to survive in a much harsher climate than the deer in the Eastern United States experience. Their smaller bodies make it easier for them to dissipate heat and they require fewer calories than do their eastern counterparts. This doe’s shoulders are barely higher than my waist and she almost certainly weighs less than 100 pounds.
In Arizona Coue’s Deer coexist with much larger mule deer. Their territories only sometimes overlap. Coue’s Deer are present in Sabino Canyon whereas Mule Deer are not, at least not now.
The deer knew I was there but she was totally indifferent to my presence. There were a couple of moments when I thought that I could have reached out and petted her.
In Sabino Canyon the deer have become inured to tourists. They aren’t in the least intimidated by them and I suspect that’s in part because some tourists feed the deer. It’s not a good situation. Sabino Canyon gets visited from time to time by Mountain Lions who prey on deer. A human who stands — even inadvertently — between a deer and a hungry lion is a person who is at risk.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 500, first image shot at f6.3 @ 1/1000, second image shot at f6.3 @ 1/500.