Dark Colored Deer
I know the fur coat that deer wear changes from summer to winter but I didn’t know why our deer in the northwoods were so beautifully dark. Thanks to the DNR Question of the Week I now know it’s because they live in a forested area.
DNR QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Q: Why does the fur coat of a deer change colors depending on the time of year – a reddish color in the spring and brown in the fall?
A: The deer’s coat is designed to provide both a means for thermoregulation and camouflage. Summer coats appear reddish and are thin, allowing deer to better cope with heat stress. In the fall, deer begin a process of molting, which is triggered by hormonal changes that reflect the changing seasons. The reddish summer coat turns into a faded gray or brown color as the new winter coat begins to grow. The new coat is comprised of two layers. The outer guard hairs are hollow, stiff and grow about 2 inches longer than the undercoat. The inner layer is soft and dense which insulates deer from the cold weather and snow. Coat color, regardless of the season, tends to be darker in forested areas and lighter in agricultural areas where deer are exposed to more direct sunlight.
– Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health program supervisor
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