Ruminating on Ruminants












Marin County is deer country, black-tailed deer to be precise (Odocoileus hemionus), a relative of the mule deer, named not for its stiff-necked personality but for its prominent and highly flexible pair of mulish ears.

No one seems to know how many black-tailed deer Marin has. Statewide, though, there are on average 18 to 60 per square mile. Marin occupies about 2,000 square miles, so a little math gets us to this: We’ve probably got anywhere from 36,000 to 120,000 of the critters. Considering Marin has only 248,000 people, even the lower number produces a pretty high ratio of ruminants to Homo sapiens.

That’s why the deer seem to be everywhere — the backyard herb garden you’ve tended so lovingly; the heirloom roses Grandma gave you; on the road at dusk, leaping with balletic grace up a hillside; or, as seen above, grazing silently at dawn on the dewy green grass at McNear’s Beach in San Rafael.

Still, occasional nuisance aside, we welcome the blacktail — its watchful eyes, primevally dark; its fawns of spring, tattooed with spots; its randy bucks of fall, antlered and on the prowl. For they inject a bit of wild into our civilized lives, reminding us gently that our manmade surroundings are only part of a larger natural world.