The white-tailed deer, which used to have the attribute “Virginia” according to older Czech nomenclature, can be commonly found in various sizes almost throughout America, but its presence in Central Europe and in the open is rare. At the present time, it is actually only found on hunting grounds in the surroundings of the town of Dobříš. It was especially this reason that gave rise to the idea of also breeding it in captivity, on the grounds of the seat of the forest district Svatá Anna, namely for the purpose of maintaining the breeding potential of this game and obtaining valuable information for use in breeding in captivity as although the white-tailed deer has been found in the Dobříš area for decades, its numbers have basically not increased even though it virtually remains unhunted.
It was not far from the idea of setting up an interest stud of tame animals consisting of specimens that found themselves in the care of people through accidental circumstances, or of otherwise endangered animals on the grounds of the forest district, to the idea to concurrently establish breeding on the grounds of the castle park as a reminder of the fact that it was the Colloredo-Mannsfeld dynasty that had been instrumental in introducing the white-tailed deer to Bohemia in the past. The fact that in 2013 exactly one hundred and sixty years passed from the import of the white-tailed deer to Dobříš or, more precisely, from the first written mention of this event, played no less an important role in its implementation. At the same time, we consider the presence of these interesting animals in the Dobříš environs as a certain kind of historical relic and we also take an appropriate approach to it, similarly as to other, perhaps easily tangible historic relics of the Colloredo-Mannsfeld dynasty.
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Its homeland and primary habitat is the North American continent, where it is the most widespread deer game, which is found in various forms that mainly differ by physical size. The Colloredo-Mannsfeld dynasty was instrumental in importing these animals to Bohemia, to the zoo park attached to the Dobříš castle, and the first information about this event dates back to 1853. It was also gradually bred in game preserves under the possession of C.M. and it got to the open from there as well. A population of this interesting game has survived until the present time and is bred in open hunting grounds north of Dobříš, which are also the only site where it is found in Bohemia or, if you like, in Central Europe.
Morphology and biology of the white-tailed deer
The basic summer colouring of the white-tailed deer is red-brown and it has white features in the lower part of the body. It has a noticeable white spot under the chin, small interesting white circles around the eyes and the single (tail) in the lower part, where there is also longer hair, is markedly white. The game erects the single, which is around 30 cm long in adult game, and moves it in the event of danger so it serves as a visual signal for the other game. Hence also the predicate – white-tailed. The winter colouring is grey-brown up to dark brown, and the white features are less marked.
The size of the local game population is average when compared to the various size forms found in its homeland and corresponds to the physical stature occurring in the state of Virginia (see its alleged origin and original name). The weight of does is 25-35 kg and stags are 35-55 kg.
The rutting season of white-tailed deer takes place from late October to early December, the most intensive period being in November. So does give birth to young most often in late May and early June. One fawn is usually born but, particularly in recent years, observing twins has not been uncommon. There are cases of triplets or even quadruplets born mentioned in bibliography from its homeland as well.
The antlers of white-tailed deer comprise a base beam, which is unusually turned forward in an arch-like fashion. Points grow out of it perpendicularly upwards. Antlers grow stronger depending on the age of the specimen as well as on its genetic disposition. The strength of antlers reaches its peak at the age of seven to eight years. In terms of the number of points, there are eight-point to ten-point stags in our conditions. In older white-tailed deer, the antlers lose their strength and become atypical or even variously deformed, nevertheless all the more interesting especially to gamekeepers. This fact is identical to the other deer game.
The behaviour of the white-tailed deer in the open seemingly creates an impression of credulity, but it is intelligent game and adapts well to a given situation. In particular, we can spot does even during the day. Its favourite habitats are forest edges, small and moist small forest meadows, places where raspberries and blackberries grow. It ranks amongst so-called browsers just as, for example, roe deer, unlike the red deer or fallow deer, which are classified as so-called grazers. Therefore, the food requirements of the white-tailed deer are higher as regards food quality. However, it does not cause significant damage in forest management or agriculture in connection with food demands, unlike especially the European red deer or the sika deer that has been spreading invasively in recent years.
The white-tailed deer does not populate new sites, which is corroborated by the very fact that it is uniquely found in the vicinity of Dobříš. Does especially maintain their resting places within a range of, for example, just hundreds of metres throughout the year. By contrast, the range of movement of red deer is substantially greater and, as is usual, it gets bigger with the onset of rut. This fact often proves fatal to them as they fall victim to accidents with cars and poaching.
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