DEAR JOAN: A few weeks ago as I was driving south on Pleasant Hill Road near Green Valley Drive in Lafayette and I saw a very small buck with a set of fully developed antlers with several points on them.
It had run out of the shrubbery toward the road, and had it continued in that direction, it would have run right into my car's path. Fortunately it veered off and instead ran back into the thicket.
I have lived next to an open space for quite a few years and have seen many deer, but I have never seen a buck as small as this one was. I was about 15 to 20 feet away from it and it looked to be about the size of a teenage deer or perhaps smaller. Do you know what type of deer this might be, or if it might just be an early maturing buck?
DEAR BEV: I consulted a longtime outdoorsman, Walter Black, of Antioch, who says that deer in the Bay Area are Columbian blacktails, a subspecies of the mule deer. They're also known as coastal blacktail. As deer go, they tend to be on the smaller side -- 125 to 140 pounds.
Walt grew up in Pleasant Hill and says that over the years he has seen some very large bucks with small antlers and small bucks with large antlers, so chances are you just happened to see a particularly small adult with a disproportionately large set of antlers.
The size of the antlers are dependent on several factors including genetics, mineral deposits and availability of water.
To make this discussion even more intriguing, Walt says he wouldn't discount the idea that what you saw was an exotic deer, imported into the area, and that it has escaped captivity or been released. He tells of an urban legend involving a wealthy Bay Area businessman who supposedly transplanted a herd of mule deer onto his property in the 1930s or 1940s. Some of the animals were said to have escaped the compound and started mating with the coastal blacktails.
I'd love to hear more on this legend, or other stories of imported creatures who now inhabit our shores and hills.
And while we're talking about deer, I've had a couple of letters from people regarding a recent column on deer antlers. I'm afraid I left some people with the notion that deer mating season is coming up. It's not for several months.
DEAR JOAN: I am hoping you can help me out with advice on how to adopt out older cats to reliable, loving people. My mother passed away in May, leaving behind five cats and their mother. My brother has one. I promised her I would find good homes for them. They are wonderful cats that only want to loved. They are about 3 years old and the mother is 6.
DEAR KERRY: That's a tough one. A lot of the rescue groups don't take animals from people. They rescue them from shelters.
I know a lot of people are loathe to take animals to the pound, fearing the pets will be killed. And that does happen, but the people who work at the animal control shelters care about those animals and do their best for them. And that's the pathway to a no-kill shelter.
Check out the list of rescue groups on our website, www.mercurynews.com/pets-animals. We have an extensive list. If they can't take the cats for you, they may be able to offer advice on how to find new homes for them.
And if anyone has an interest in adopting a cat, please contact me and I'll pass your information along to Kerry.
Joan Morris' column runs five days a week in print and online. Contact her at email@example.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.