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Family Mammal Study – Unexpected Deer and Our Usual Squirrels

As part of preparing for our mammal study this week, I pulled our mammal field guide from our shelf to have for easy reference. I opened to the introductory pages and I would love to share a few thoughts from those pages with you in this post.

  • Most mammals are creatures of the darkness, only becoming active at night after dark and returning home again before dawn.
  • Most nocturnal mammals communicate by odor which humans cannot detect and with sounds which are frequently high pitched and low in volume.
  • Direct observation of most mammals is difficult except for a few species like chipmunks and squirrels.
  • The vocalizations of mammals have not been extensively explored and most make brief sounds called “call notes”.

3 11 11 walking trail deer

We were walking along our usual trail having a great conversation when my son twirled me around to get me to look up on the hill. He had spotted a few young deer not too far from where we were. They were slowly moving along, not really paying too much attention to us.

California mule deer are very common in our area and we often see groups of 8-10 deer alongside the road or in grassy meadows. My husband actually hit a deer with his truck last month when he was coming home from work…minimal damage and the deer bounced back up and ran off into the woods. He was lucky. He once hit a deer and it totaled the vehicle.

3 11 11 walking trail deer

We were planning on studying our backyard squirrels this week as part of our mammal study but we spent a little time reading up on the mule deer too. California mule deer are very graceful and agile mammals. They have lovely eyes but don’t let those innocent looking eyes fool you. They have been known to eat my garden down to the ground in one night.

Fox Squirrel in the Tree
There are three fox squirrels and one gray squirrel in our yard just about every day. They are in the bird feeders and up in the trees chattering at us and the dog pretty much all day long. I started off trying to keep them out of the feeders but it is an impossible task.

Fox Squirrel eating my seed bell
They are very acrobatic and can get to just about any of our feeders.

We spend time each day watching these very acrobatic mammals hop from limb to limb and then hang upside down to eat from the feeders.

Here is a coloring page for a Fox Squirrel.  We found this website that has a recording of the sound the fox squirrel makes.

Squirrel watercolor with photos (3)
Again, I ended up including photos as part of my nature journal entry to show the differences between the Western gray squirrel and the Fox squirrel.

One of my sons told me that it used to be an “event” when the gray squirrel showed up in the yard but now we have so many squirrels that they are commonplace. We have started to think of them as rodent pests rather than welcome visitors.

3 thoughts on “Family Mammal Study – Unexpected Deer and Our Usual Squirrels

  1. there is a route i take to pick up my kids that i purposely go down to watch the deer…i often see 2-3 dozen deer grazing beside the road, not giving a hoot to the traffic whizzing by. we also generally see turkeys and geese there too.

    it is fun to watch the deer! i wish i could put the truck on autopilot so i could watch them completely as we go by. i’d love to stop but i’m sure they’d run off if i did.

  2. I LOVE seeing your journal pages! Very inspiring! And continues to give my GREAT ideas!


  3. The other evening while chasing eagles (our friend saw 7), we counted 70 deer, 21 being all in one spot by the road! It was exciting for everyone. Squirrels and deer are pretty commonplace around here, too, but everyone still gets excited when we see them. Love the squirrel painting in the notebook!

    Ring true,

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