Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/703

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PLANT-EATERS OF NORTH AMERICA.

summer, except in those regions, as in many parts of the South, where the deer can gain access to the fields of young wheat, oats, or other grain. In the early autumn it adds berries of various sorts to its bill of fare, and later still nuts and acorns; and in winter it feeds upon almost all kinds of buds and tender twigs, as well as upon various kinds of the more hardy herbs. The males are in excellent condition from August to November, and the females from November to January. The antlers are fully grown in July or August, and remain till the next January, when they are shed. The males engage in severe

PSM V10 D703 The virginia deer.jpg
Fig. 3.—The Virginia Deer (Cervus Virginianus).

contests with one another, and in some of these contests they get their horns or antlers interlocked, so that they cannot separate them, and the combatants at length perish from starvation and exhaustion. In some cases the antlers are interlocked so firmly that even a strong man cannot separate them, and Audubon mentions one case where three pairs of antlers were thus united. The flesh of this deer, as is well known, is tender and juicy, and has an excellent flavor. This fact, and the love of the excitement of the chase, have caused this animal to be extensively hunted. At the same time our forests have been disappearing, thus affording them less protection, so that the numbers of the common deer are far less than twenty-five years ago. It will require rigid legislation to keep these animals from entirely disappearing from many parts of our country where a deer-hunt is still possible.

Next to the moose, the wapiti or American elk (Cervus Canadensis) is the largest deer in North America. It is nearly as large as a horse, and its horns are the most magnificent to be found in the whole deer family, being five or six feet long and much branched. In some cases antlers of this species have been secured which were so long that when standing on their tips a man could walk upright through