deer yard

Once winter snows reach a foot or so, deer have a hard time digging down for moss, ferns, lichen, and other food. Not only that, but snow travel is difficult on slender deer legs. So the animals head for deer yards, often conifer stands that offer some protection from wind and snowfall. Once they’ve “yarded up”—in spots that may have been used for generations—the animals beat out a series of trails as they forage for twigs and leaves. Depending on snow depth, these trails can turn into corridors as tall as the deer themselves, and competition for accessible food can be fierce; as soon as the snow depth starts to drop with the spring thaw, therefore, the yarded-up herds melt back into the forest.

Bill McKibben