December 2021

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Deer Antlers: A Mammalian Miracle

 

A male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in July 2018

Photo: Frédérique Truchon

 

Of all the beautiful animal displays, perhaps none is quite as majestic as that of deer antlers. Around this time of year, male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) parade around the Gault Nature Reserve with their head held high in search of mates. But what exactly are antlers?

 

Easily mistaken for horns, which are widespread in the animal kingdom, antlers are only found in the Cervidae family. While horns, in most species, can be found in males and females, antlers are usually found only in male deer (except for the caribou, Rangifer tarandus). Most importantly, antlers are the only mammalian organ capable of complete regeneration! Horns stay on an animal’s head all its life and will not regrow if they are injured. Antlers, however, are grown and shed every year.

 

Scientists study this unique and impressive annual cycle to try to understand mammalian organ regeneration. Current research focuses on understanding the stem-cell-like properties allowing this unique feature of cervids to occur in the hope that it would allow us to regenerate human organs and limbs.

Fair Competition

 

Red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
Photo: Daniel Jauvin

 

The pinecones littering the forest floor are good for more than just Christmas garlands—just ask a red squirrel or one of the many birds that see them as a meal, like the red‑breasted nuthatch. This small bird can extract the meaty seeds from the cone with a quick flick of its slender beak. You might also spot one exploring tree trunks, head down, in search of insects hiding in the cracks of the bark to avoid becoming part of a bird buffet. These cracks are also useful as a hiding place for an emergency cold‑weather food stash. The red-breasted nuthatch has the same blue-grey back as the white-breasted nuthatch, but can be distinguished by its smaller size, nasal song, black eye band and, of course, red belly.


By Johanne Ménard from the Société d’ornithologie de la Vallée du Richelieu. To learn more about the SOVDR and become a member: sovdr.org. (This text appeared in issue 38 of Nature sauvage.)

 

Be well-equipped for winter

 

Photo: McGill University

 

Icy trails are common on the mountain in wintertime, especially on steep sections. During your outings at the Reserve, please remember to bring your crampons for a safer hike. Walking poles are a great help too.

Crampons are also available for sale at the Welcome Centre.

 

Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Check conditions before you travel

 

Photo: McGill University

 

The Reserve’s ski trails are open weather and snow conditions permitting. Likewise, snowshoeing is allowed on the hiking trails when there is enough snow on the ground.

 

Be sure to check trail conditions and closures on the home page of our website before travelling to the Reserve. You can also view our trail map online.

 

Note: Access to the ski trails is free for annual cardholders. *

All other visitors must purchase a day pass online and pick up a ski permit on-site at the Welcome Centre for $5.

 

* Parking at the Reserve is limited. While annual cardholders do not need to reserve a time slot in advance, visitors arriving by car may be turned away if the parking lot is full.

 

Mont Saint-Hilaire Biosphere Reserve’s
2021 Photography Contest

 

Photos: Charles Litalien, Valérie Mongeau, Jean-Sébastien Roch

 

This year’s contest winners were announced on December 3. The theme of this edition was “from the micro to the macro.”

 

1stprize: Charles Litalien (spider)

2nd prize: Valérie Mongeau (sunset)

3rd prize: Jean-Sébastien Roch (winter scene)

Youth award: Marjolaine Schnell

Honourable mention: Auguste Bière, Frédéric Dénommée, Nicolas Finelli, Nicolas Jaffré,

and Catherine Roy

 

The winning photos will be posted online and displayed outside near the Musée des beaux-arts de Mont-Saint-Hilaire. *

 

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to everyone who entered.

 

* The Musée des beaux-arts de Mont-Saint-Hilaire is located at 150 rue du Centre-Civique, Mont-Saint-Hilaire.

 

Blast from the Past

Ski Jumping on Mont Saint-Hilaire

 

Denis Martel in full flight

Photo: Maurice Martel

 

In 1964, a 30-metre ski jump was built on Mont Saint-Hilaire in what is now the meadow on the Burned Hill trail. The ski jumping area was around 15 metres wide by 40 metres long. Competitions took place from 1965 to 1970. The ski jump was later destroyed, but if you look closely, you can still see a relic of the landing area to this day—the trees there are smaller and sparser.

 

To learn more about the history of skiing on Mont Saint-Hilaire, check out this article by Jacques Poulin (French only).

About our Blasts from the Past

As owner and guardian of the Gault Nature Reserve, we plan to celebrate the university’s bicentennial by publishing a monthly photo in InfoGault. Each photo will capture a moment from the history of this beautiful site.

 

 

Réserve naturelle Gault

422, chemin des Moulins

Mont-Saint-Hilaire (Québec) J3G 4S6

Courriel

Téléphone : 450 467-4010

 

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