Driving on Texas A&M International University's campus on a misty Fall morning, an old cowboy song might get stuck in one's head: Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play. . . While TAMIU doesn't have any antelope, autumn often brings a group of deer browsing under the oak trees leading towards the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library.
In fact, the deer were memorialized in the TAMIU Alma Mater, written by Dr. Ray Keck, TAMIU president: ". . . dove and deer lodge safely by. . ." Of course, deer are not the only wildlife on the 300-acre campus. In addition, TAMIU is home to coyotes, javelinas, rabbits, raccoons, possums and even the occasional bat...all rather surprising residents for a growing University campus serving one of the State's fastest growing cities.
Dr. Thomas Vaughan, associate professor of biology, estimates there are between 30 and 40 deer on the campus.
"What you see out in front of the Killam Library is a family group, with three or four generations represented. All you see are the does and their young. At night you might see a buck or two. I've seen as many as three bucks in one night. They stay away from people," he explained.
He said despite appearances, the deer are not actually interested in the grass.
"People see the deer and assume they're eating grass. They're not; they are browsers, not grazers. There are a whole lot of other things growing in the lawn. By irrigating, we're perpetually renewing the vegetation, making the deers' life easier. They're eating what I'd call weeds; annuals and perennials, flowering plants. You don't see that as you drive by," he said.
While the deer and even the javelinas appear docile, Dr. Vaughan cautioned that these are wild animals, and should be treated with respect.
"People need to realize that even though they appear to be tame they're not. Deer aren't going to bother people unless they get between a doe and fawn. They'd rather go the other way. There's a danger in sneaking up on a group of javelinas, because they will all run in different directions. You might get run over by one, as their eyesight is poor. They too would rather run, but again, getting between a female and a baby can be very dangerous," Vaughan cautioned.
While the University has no plans to control the deer population, relying on the natural course of things to do so, Richard Gentry, Physical Plant director, explained their presence has definitely shaped the face of the campus.
"The plants in the Lamar Bruni Vergara Memorial garden are 99% plants that deer won't eat. We adjust the landscaping to the deer, try to make it deer proof. If we didn't do that, then the deer would eat it and there would be no landscaping. We don't really bother the deer," Gentry said.
So be sure to watch out for the animals while driving on campus and keep a close eye on the deer before they bound off into the monte. They are as much at home on the range at TAMIU as the buildings and the students walking to classes.
For more information about the wildlife on campus, please contact Dr. Thomas Vaughan at 326.2592, visit offices in Dr. F.M. Canseco Hall, room 315F or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.