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How Deer Handle the Heat


South Carolina and many other states are mired in a historic heat wave. Many places across the south have had record number of days of temperatures over 98 degrees with over two dozen days with temperatures over the century mark. Add into it the humidity and it is really oppressive.

Just last night, I looked at the thermometer and saw that at 10:00 p.m. the mercury was still over 90 degrees and the humidity exceeded 85%! Putting the heat index at 100 degrees at 10:00 p.m.! The air is so heavy the heat so oppressive it is difficult to function. All of this has me wondering how does our whitetail deer handle the excessive heat?

Water is key to keeping humans and deer hydrated and to handle the heat better than anything else. This is what is causing the most concern in many areas. Currently there are twenty seven counties experiencing draught issues. Couple this with the excessive heat and the situations are dire at best. As an example, along my property, my main source of water is a well-established creek that flows through the heart of the property. An inspection this past weekend revealed the creek is no longer flowing and all of the water is relegated to deep water pools, and these are more than 50% depleted.

This poses a severe situation for most landowners or managers. How can we get more water to the deer and other wildlife when there is so little rain and the temperatures are so high? First as a response is to bring water into the area when you can. Building watering stations, similar to those used for cattle will definitely benefit and draw deer during these extreme days. Second is ponds, if a pond is available on your property, you are fortunate. Though the levels may be dropping, there should be water available.

Other than water, the next thing deer need is shade. Granted most properties have an abundance of shade, and this cannot be overstated in importance. Shade though can be a relative thing. Planted pine plantations offer shade, but there is little comfort from the heat in these plantations because air does not move thorough them very well. The thick pines offer seclusion and insulation. Look for the more open areas that offer shade near water. Deer will congregate near these areas to drink often and to catch every breeze that blows to remain cool.

The fact of the matter is that deer suffer during the heat of the south, as much or more as the northern deer suffer from hard winters. Water, and access to water near shade are all necessary elements to keep deer comfortable when the mercury boils. As responsible landowners and managers, its our responsibility to ensure all wildlife have access to the things necessary to help the wildlife survive and even thrive during these extreme situations.