White-Tailed Deer
Odocoileus virginianus
Family Cervidae

* Coat reddish-brown in summer, gray-blue-brown in winter. Fawns spotted with white.
* Tail dusky above and white below; it is held erect and waves when the deer runs.
* Males have antlers, consisting of a main beam with prongs. The record antler spread is 33".
* Height: 3-3 1/2' at the shoulder.

Natural History:
* Habitat: Forests, swamps, open brush, meadows.
* Range: Most of the United States and southern Canada, except California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah.
* Behavior: White-tailed deer are active year-round herbivores. They feed on twigs, fungi, acorns, grass, and herbs. To learn about the plants they feast on, check out American yew, hobblebush, striped maple, mountain maple, and mountain laurel. In winter, deer form communities of 25 or more animals, but during the rest of the year they are solitary, except for mother/fawn pairs. They mate from November to February. White-tailed deer fawns bleat, and adults snort when alarmed.
* Lifespan: 15-20 years.
* Native.

* White-tailed deer have incredibly keen ears, allowing them to sense humans from a distance. They are also strong swimmers, having been clocked at thirteen miles per hour for three miles. At night, they bed down in hollows and meadows, where the ground is dry, level, and grassy. A flattened area several feet in diameter is usually an indication of white-tailed deer.

* Deer are the most important game mammal in the eastern United States. If you feel remorse imagining hunters stalking through the woods in camouflage suits with giant high-powered bows and rifles, emerging with poor defenseless dead deer,and gathering around the deer camp to drink beer and count the points on their bucks' antlers, just imagine the winter woods without hunting season. Those poor defenseless deer would be competing for a few twigs and digging through the snow for a limited supply of food, and many would eventually starve and die slow, painful deaths. Deer abundances would be very large because most of their natural predators, such as wolf, bear, mountain lion, and coyote, have been extirpated from most of the range. Isn't it better, or at least acceptable, that some people get to sit in the woods, enjoy nature, and come home with enough meat to last their families several weeks, thereby keeping the deer population in check?

* The more deer in an area, the greater the threat of lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks.

* The bottom photo shows the deers' ability to camouflage in the forest.


Created by: Niki Zhou and Carla Holleran
Maintained by: Nick Rodenhouse
Created: June 25, 2004
Last Modified: August 7, 2004
Expries: June 1, 2005