Grazing in the newly green grass

Two deer munch on the first sign of green grass off Olmsted Drive in Watertown on April 6. The deer, unaffected by passing traffic, continued to eat while several cars stopped to watch. Alec Johnson/Watertown Daily Times

Over the coming weeks, white-tailed deer will be shedding their brown/gray winter coats or hair, which will be replaced by a summer coat with more reddish coloration. This process, and the resulting patchiness in a deer’s coat, can be mistaken by observers as a sign of illness or injury, but is a natural process that helps deer thermoregulate throughout the seasons. The reverse process (deer shedding their summer coat for their winter one) typically occurs in early to mid-September.

A white-tailed deer’s winter coat is comprised of dense, hollow hairs that provide insulation against cold winter temperatures and snow. This coat is so well adapted to hold in a deer’s body heat that snow often accumulates on deer while they are bedded during winter storms. The summer coat, on the other hand, is comprised of thin, lighter hairs that are meant to help deer stay cool during the warm summer months. The change in dark to lighter hair coloration also likely helps deer absorb heat from the sun during the winter and reflect it in summer.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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