DEER BROWSE ON CACTUS
By A. R. Croft, Ranger Naturalist
A VERY COMMON sight near Grand Canyon village is the flat, oval joint of the Prickly Pear Cactus with a large half moon-shaped section cut out as if by a sharp instrument. The rather general occurrence of this condition suggests that some animal is making food of this plant, and the evidence as far as the writer is aware, wholly circumstantial -- points conclusively the deer.
As one looks at these gouged-out sections in the late summer it seems that the protection afforded by the spines, which are the branches of the cactus, would prevent the use of them as food. But the deer, probably to add variety to their diet, used the plant for food some time before the spines appeared. The new joints of the Prickly Pear are produced by a rather rapid growth and for a brief period of their existence bear only short, soft, cone-shaped, palatable leaves. The spines which are soon to appear develop from buds in the axils of the leaves. It is while in this rather inviting condition that deer choose to make the Prickly Pear Cactus a part of their diet.
In the vicinity of Indian Gardens, down in the canyon, the same condition is quite common, which suggests that the antelope in that section find a usable item of food in the same type of plant at certain seasons of the year.
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