William "Red" Tucker took this photo in Bear Valley Springs of a California Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus californicus) chewing on something.
Mule Deer are mostly browsers, meaning they eat leaves, flowers, fruit, nuts, growing tips and even bark off trees and shrubs, in addition to consuming grass. Animals that eat primarily grass are considered grazers.
But the California Mule Deer's habit of browsing, which often consists of grabbing a bite of foliage here and there, can lead them to sample many different foods. The Natural Sightings editor has been sent photos of deer standing up on their back legs as they eat from bird feeders — both seed feeders hung up for songbirds, as well as nectar feeders containing sugar water for hummingbirds.
They have also been seen by Tehachapi residents eating dry cat food or dog food left in outside bowls. Deer move through campsites at Tehachapi Mountain Park after campers have left, and have been spotted eating food spills or leftovers, as well as licking the BBQ grills for traces of sauces and marinades.
Researchers who have positioned trail cameras by carcasses and gut piles to see which scavengers appear have been surprised to find many deer appear in the videos and still photos. Deer are often the first animals to discover carrion, and may eat some of the remains themselves. Deer are also regularly seen chewing on bones they discover, perhaps as a source of calcium.
Deer also crave salt and other minerals, and some residents in outlying areas place livestock mineral or salt blocks out for wild animals, particularly deer. The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for buck deer is ayida, pronounced eye-YID-uh.
NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.