Tuesday, August 16, 2011

So Hot the Deer Are Swimming! White-tailed Deer

White-tailed deer swimming in the Atlantic ocean.
This is the view from our house, looking south out to sea. See the deer near the mooring ball? The deer could swim straight to Morocco from here.

Deer have such fragile looking legs, it's hard to imagine them clambering on slick, sea weed covered rocks.

Deer swim like dogs. When they get out of the water, they shake like dogs do, too.

    This has been a hot, sultry summer with record breaking heat. That's not news to anyone in Texas, but we Mainer's aren't used to it. My husband installed an air conditioner in our bedroom. I was skeptical about the need for what seemed like a decorating monstrosity. Here on the coast, it's usually ten degrees or more cooler than inland and we have steady breeze off the water. However, we had enough days of ninety degree weather strung together to claim a heat wave and I had to eat crow. Even the deer took to the water!
     Deer swim well, but it doesn't look natural to me. They swim to escape predators and to find new territories for food and mates. In the photo above, the land mass on the left is the tip of Hermit Island.  "The Hermit" is over run with White-tailed deer as no hunting is allowed there. This was not the first time I've seen deer swimming the mile or so across the cove.  Hermit Island has more than 200 camp sites. Perhaps the deer object to the camper's noise, or choices in music. I start feeling a little crowded with summer people, too. I'm much too lazy to swim that far, though. Deer sometimes get into swimming pools, too which can be a disaster. Their sharp hooves tear up liners and if they can't get out, they drown. White-tailed deer weigh between 125 and 300 pounds. That would be a lot of dead weight to haul from a pool. Deer may seek relief in cool water from skin parasites, like ticks, Deer flies  and mosquitos. Or, they may swim just for the pure joy of it, like we do. This particular deer swam across the cove, got out, then turned around and swam back. To date, I've never seen a deer wearing ear plugs nor a bathing cap and, they swim in the nude. 
      Soon enough, before we even realize summer is really over, it will be cold and snowing. We'll be complaining about shovelling instead of the heat. The air conditioner will be gone and frost will coat the windows. I'll scratch a hole through the frost to look outside and shiver at the falling snow. Maybe I'll see a deer ice skating or skiing. I'll let you know.

(This post was chosen as Editor's Pick for Open Salon at http://salon.com. It is the ninth of my works selected as Editor's Pick.)


  1. How lucky for you to catch that dear swimming while you had your camera. Here, they swim across the Ohio River for the same reasons you stated, predators and new territory. The islands get deer to swim over and stay for a day or two then return to the mainland. Some, of course take up permanent residence and like at the Hermit, overcrowding soon happens.

  2. great images. thanks for sharing your view!

  3. HI Robin....I loved it...perhaps the salt water relieves the insects bite the poor things get!!
    that is something!
    Like you say about the tourist and day trippers!
    The place gets nuts out there ..I feel bad for you all!!
    It has been a hot one for us Mainer's, but I made it without a air conditioner...yeah!
    Now if i can just afford the oil to keep warm????
    I suppose the deer are like people who flock to the ocean to seek relief...who knows ...but nice post and great pic's!!

  4. Congrats on the EP! Great story and photos!

    Susie Lindau

    August 16, 2011 06:57 PM

  5. Ekaj and Mama Zen, thank you very much for the views, comments and compliments!

  6. Hi Robin: You are unbelievable! I've never seen this, but hear stories of people seeing deer swim across the Small Point harbor, or out by the ledge. After that last sighting, a deer was found dead on the Hermit, after too much exercise maybe. It has been hot. For the first time in my life, I went up to bed and it was hot! Ouch. I have an air conditioner but have never installed it. I think it is cooler over at West Point than here. I've been really busy as usual, but having a good time. You really write humorously, and thanks for sharing. Ronnie

  7. Ronnie, thank you so much. You are such an incredible naturalist that I'm pleased I could show you something you had not seen yourself. Maybe the deer just died of old age. If I were old and felt like life was maybe too near the end, I think swimming out to sea until I was done for might be just the ticket. Don't you?

  8. SO jealous of your view. Breathtaking. Bambi swims? Sometimes for fun or to cool off? Yup, animals are dumb. Wouldn't it be a scene from Bambi to see a deer on the ice, legs splayed, in the winter? The diving deer.... if I had to choose a favourite.

    Chrissie Pissie

    August 16, 2011 09:34 PM

  9. Great to see the EP!
    You picked a very cool subject for your hot days. I love your pieces because they are never just pictures but your observations and gleaned knowledge about those of our fellow creatures whom you capture with your amazing eye and hand.


    August 17, 2011 01:45 AM

  10. Wow, such beautiful and refreshing photos, Robin! Thanks for sharing! I've never seen a deer swim, with or without bathing cap... :)

    clay ball

    August 17, 2011 08:33 AM

  11. Wonderful essay with amazing photos!

  12. Pat, thank you very much. I was pretty pleased with the pics myself!

  13. Wow. That's super interesting. My theory while reading your post was that if it, indeed, is overpopulated by deer, there may be so much competition that she wanted out, but then she went back. Hm.

    You know, some of your readers may be on to something. My husband & 2 friends were some of the first backpackers in the high Sierra years ago (early summer) and they were DYING from all the starving mosquitoes that'd just hatched out.

    On occasion, when he just couldn't stand it any longer, my husband would strip and go INTO the fed-by-melting-snowpack FREEZING creeks and lakes, up to his neck, and when he'd come out, the mosquitoes couldn't find him. Not enough heat emanating, so he'd get a short break from the otherwise relentless torture. I bet salt water is GREAT at discouraging ticks, I'd think.

    Super interesting. Thanks. =)

  14. I never complain about the heat!! I'd rather be hot trying to get cool than freezing trying to thaw!


    August 17, 2011 09:54 AM

  15. I adore your posts and this one is no exception. You have a talent to capture the most fascinating shots, such as the one of the deer jumping into water. Your writing simply complements the rest. I think deer are smart to swim in the nude without earplugs and swimming caps. It must be the only way to enjoy water.

    August 17, 2011 12:30 PM

  16. Beautiful photos and post.

    Miguela Holt y Roybal

    August 17, 2011 01:07 PM

  17. My cousin once saw this happen in Alaska. However, a killer whale came out of the water and ate the deer. No joke.


    August 17, 2011 06:51 PM

  18. Great post. Thanks for implanting the vision of a deer ice skating. I would call him/her a reindeer. Rudolph, of course!

    Scarlett Sumac

    August 17, 2011 08:04 PM

  19. Someday I'll make it to the Right Coast.

    old new lefty

    August 18, 2011 01:03 AM

  20. Oh my, so darling a moment. Love that top image..

    Algis Kemezys

    August 18, 2011 09:41 AM

  21. Great story and photos. Never heard of this but why should they not swim. Especially in the nude. There's no greater feeling...well almost. Congrats on the EP. -R-
    Christine Geery

    August 18, 2011 01:30 PM

  22. It would make me happy for days to see such a thing!

    Hells Bells

    August 18, 2011 01:57 PM

  23. I would love to join that deer for a lap or two.

    Oryoki Bowl

    August 18, 2011 02:41 PM

  24. Lovely to see and read of your deer. Lovelier still to think of Maine and, now, of you, looking out at such wonder!


    August 18, 2011 02:58 PM

  25. Wonderful summer story, congratulations on the EP. I never knew that deer swam, but it makes sense and I bet it is beautiful to see in person. Thanks for sharing this.


    August 18, 2011 05:52 PM

  26. So nice !!!


    August 18, 2011 05:52 PM

  27. that is so cute!
    Poppi Iceland

    August 18, 2011 07:36 PM

  28. Awesome! This delightful entry was surely a winner! Hard to believe the deer's skinny legs could make it so far in the water without drowning. Thought...If the deer went into a heated pool it would provide you with venison throughout the winter!

  29. This reminds me of the saying, ' The grass is always greener', deer style. Obviously the new location didn't live up to her expectations!

  30. Love your photos! I've seen deer swimming in open water, before. It doesn't look natural, but that's my perspective, not the deer's. We visited one of the kids in the Buffalo, NY area. They put in a window AC in the upstairs bedroom this summer, as well. My cousin in Tulsa tells horror stories of everything dying in the yard despite watering. R

    Rodney Roe

    August 19, 2011 09:32 AM

  31. Your pictures are gorgeous! What an enviable view. And to see deer swimming is amazing. As a city girl I've never seen that. I really enjoyed your commentary about the deer and the hot summer. Have you ever seen deer swimming in pairs or groups? Or do these animals tend to be loners? I like how you tell that one deer swam across the water and then turned right back around to swim back to the other side. He/she must have really been enjoying the water, or perhaps wanted to lose some weight or strengthen his/her spindly legs?

    Elizabeth Warkentin

    August 19, 2011 11:49 AM

  32. Elizabeth, would that be synchronized swimming of the deer are in a group? Look out, Esther Williams!

  33. I see deer prints on the beach here by Lake Michigan, but I'v never seen one actually in the water. Love these photos.

    Sarah Cavanaugh

    August 19, 2011 12:55 PM

  34. Well obviously they can do it, so that's for sure natural ;-) Beautiful sotry and nice shots Robin!

  35. Chris, thank you very much. Sarah, I see them on the beaches in the winter when they are looking for sea weed to eat when the snow pack is deep. Sad, really. Tahnk you for the compliment and read.

  36. Great post and photos Robin! Congrats on another editor's pick!

    I remember the first time that I saw Deer swimming from Arrowsic Island to the mainland here by our place. I wondered why they didn't wait until low tide and just walk across. After I tried to walk in the cove at low tide and lost a boot because of the sucking mud and silt, I then understood why they didn't "hoof it."

  37. Great pictures Robin- that is so interesting!! I never knew they swam in deep water like that. I think they are so beautiful.

  38. Robin, I always learn something new on your blog. Hermit Island sounds pretty crowded. Maybe the deer wanted to get in some exercise in addition to cooling off.