It’s (almost) the most wonderful time of the year, when deer and other animals across the country lock horns with one another to establish dominance and find a mate. In a classic showing of rutty aggression caught on film, which Nature is Metal posted to their Instagram profile Thursday, two mature mule deer bucks battle it out between two mobile homes. The clashing bucks get dangerously close to a parked car, and they pop an inflatable pig wearing a Santa hat that gets caught in the tussle.
As the footage shows, these two bucks are evenly matched in terms of body size. They push each other back and forth until one puts the other on roller skates and motors him straight into the pink inflatable pig. (Between the Christmas decorations, the lack of leaves on the trees, and the fact that these bucks are clearly peak-rut, this footage was likely filmed last year.) The footage ends with the bucks locked up in a stalemate near the car.
While it’s unclear where this footage was filmed, one of the cars in the video has a Colorado license plate. Mule deer enter the rut in the late fall, usually around the start of November, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The mating season can last through mid-December to February, depending on the region. During this time, CPW asks homeowners to consider removing tangle risks, like long strands of holiday lights, hammocks, and rope swings. People should also avoid getting too close to bucks, as their patience and tolerance for perceived threats is even lower than it normally is.
The rut is triggered by the changing photoperiod, or the number of hours of daylight per 24 hours. Less daylight availability triggers different hormonal changes in both bucks and does, although the exact dates of these changes vary depending on what region the deer live in. The first photoperiod-related changes occur when bucks shed their velvet, usually sometime around the first week of September. As the photoperiod shortens more, does enter estrus and bucks continue to build up extra testosterone. Their necks swell, they become more aggressive, and they fight each other over mates.