As I’m sure I have said before, the American River Parkway is an amazing green space in the middle of sprawling urban and suburban development. To quote from a wonderful little book titled The Lower American River, Prehistory to Parkway:
It preserves a precious open space greenbelt through a largely metropolitan area with a population of more than 1.3 million people. It serves as habitat for a great assortment of wildlife and a source of recreational opportunities for people with many interests — fishing, boating, rafting, bicycling, picnicking, bird watching, nature study, lying on the beach.
Because it stretches over 31 ½ miles, the Parkway contains a wide variety of terrains and habitats. Some appear to be closer to their natural state — undeveloped, with dense brush and primitive trails. In these areas it’s not surprising to notice the presence of coyotes, deer, river otters, and other shy creatures who tend to avoid human contact.
And then there are the more developed areas, with parking lots, picnic grounds, fishing docks and raft rentals. I’m sure the animals are still there, but you most likely won’t see any sign of them unless you’re up very early in the morning.
That’s why I was a little surprised to run into a young blacktail deer as it grazed alongside one of my favorite lakeside trails at nearly 11 o’clock in the morning. The Negro Bar SP beach and picnic area is just on the other side of the trees and bushes in the background.
I froze in place and began quietly snapping pictures, while the deer — a curious doe, I was pretty sure — stared in my direction for a good five minutes, trying to decide if there was something there worth worrying about.
It wasn’t until the deer decided to retreat up the hillside, away from the trail, that I realized it wasn’t a doe I was looking at, but a young buck. I was pretty sure I could see the somewhat curved spikes on its head — but after getting home and examining the images more clearly, I think I actually can see forks on this young buck’s rack. A rare sight for this relatively busy area of the park!
Then again, the rutting season will be here soon enough…