If you’ve visited the Zoo, you’ve likely met a lot of our more than 900 animal residents. Some animals are easy to spot, but others are often not as easy to see because of their habitat set up, their personalities or their sleep cycles among other things. We wanted to start a “Meet the Animals” section of our blog to introduce you to some of the residents that you may (or may not have) met yet!
Deerly beloved, we are gathered virtually here today to talk about one of the most underrated trios in the Zoo. While Wild Florida is home to some of our most famed animals, like our three Florida black bears or lion brothers, our deer sometimes get the short end of the palm frond when it comes to attention. However, today we’re showcasing our lovely deer ladies to help you get acquainted.
“Persimmon is the ‘shiest’ of the group,” said Wild Florida Area Supervisor Marc Franzen. “Plum and Peach are both very comfortable with humans and are typically interested in new things immediately and will usually greet keepers at the gate to the habitat.”
Persimmon and Plum are native white-tailed deer, while Peach is a fallow deer. All three love to be fed by guests. They also co-exist with their louder turkey neighbors quite well. Besides occasional squabbles over diets, they’re content with their feather-clad habitat mates.
All three of our deer came to be Brevard Zoo residents after being rescued from various incidents. Persimmon, the oldest of the group, came to us from an in-state rehabber who made it clear that she was non-releasable due to her lack of fear around humans. Plum had a leg injury as a fawn requiring intensive hands-on human care, making it impossible for her to be released. Peach, the newest and youngest member, was rescued by humans after being found alone. When it was discovered that she was a fallow deer, an invasive Florida species, The decision was made that she couldn’t be released.
“While we aim to provide a home for native animals in need in the Florida loop, we certainly weren’t going to turn Peach away,” said Marc.
While each of these deer had a rough start to life, their lives now are filled with daily enrichment and engaging training. For enrichment, they enjoy foraging for their diet in different ways thought up by their keepers. This enrichment is great for stimulating their natural behaviors. While not as naturally stimulating, the water sprinklers are also a deer favorite, as Plum especially likes frolicking in the water.
When it comes to training, many keepers practice voluntary medical procedures with the deer, including weight scale training, blood collection and hoof trims. Plum is the resident expert on these practices, as a recent leg injury made it imperative that she was as comfortable as possible with her medical care.
Fruit is one of the best motivators for this trio when it comes to training or daily snacking! Whether it’s some fresh banana, watermelon, or blueberries, it’s rare that one of these three turns down a sugary treat. They also get a fresh, well-balanced diet of grain, leaves and other berry varieties.
Locally, the white-tailed deer populations are doing very well and are managed by hunters, so many locals are accustomed to spotting a deer or two around their homes. However, there’s still a clear benefit to being able to see these deer within human care.
“Having the deer at the Zoo gives people the opportunity to see an animal up close that they only get a quick glimpse of before they run away in their native range. They are great ambassadors that provide a way to connect people with the animal habitats in their own backyard,” said Marc.
Peach is also an ambassador for her non-native species as well, and it gives the Zoo staff a chance to educate the public on how quickly non-native species can establish themselves in Florida and compete with our native species.
We hope the next time you’re wandering Wild Florida you’ll give one of these three deer a well-deserved handful of grain or a gentle snoot pat.
Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.