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White-Tailed Deer Fact File

Appearance

The white-tailed deer is covered by brown fur on its back and face with white fur on the underside. In winter the coat may be grey-brown while in summer it is reddish-brown. This extends under the tail giving the species its common name. This white spot under the tail is flashed at other herd members as a warning if danger is present.

Only males will develop the antlers. These grow fresh each year being shed by February and regrow from April to May. When they first grow the antlers are covered by velvet which is soft fur but by September this is all rubbed off on a tree leaving the clean bone. The antlers tend to become larger each year.

At the end of the body is a short tail of between 15 and 30cm (6-12in) long.

These animals differ in size from the north to the south. In Canada they may stand 1.1m (3.5ft) tall at the shoulder while in Venezuela they average 60cm (2ft) tall.

On average their body measures 1.8-2.4m (6-7.75ft) long with an average weight of 52-140kg (115-310lbs).

Diet

The white-tailed deer is a herbivore. Their diet is made up of grass, shrubs, twigs, buds, cacti, mushrooms, lichen and nuts.

Deer do not migrate but instead maintain the same range year round. In winter they will trod well-worn paths to find greenery which may still be accessible.

White-tailed deer are ruminants. They can consume large amounts of food quickly and then store it for further chewing and digestion later.

white-tailed deer

Scientific Name

Odocoileus virginianus

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

52-140kg (115-310lbs)

Length

1.8-2.4m (6-7.75ft)

Lifespan

Wild 10 years

Captive 20 years

Diet

Omnivorous

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Range

South, Central and North America is the native home of the white-tailed deer. Here they can be found in Belize, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, United States and Venezuela.

Introduced populations of this species exist in Czechia, Finland, Slovakia and New Zealand.

Habitat

With their wide range they can be found in a number of habitats including temperate, subtropical and semi-arid environments. They may also be found in rainforests, grasslands, prairies, mountains, deciduous forests and savannas.

Humans and white-tailed deer will live side-by-side in parts of their range.

white-tailed deer

Reproduction

The breeding season begins in early September when males go through the rut. During this period the antlers are used by males to fight one another. These battles gain them mating rights with the females but are very intense and some do not survive.

Twins are a common occurrence and will be born after the 199 day gestation period. These fawns will stand within minutes of their birth.

Fawns are covered with lighter covered spots across their back which assist with camouflaging the fawn.

Mothers will leave their fawns while they go off to find food.

The young will suckle milk from their mother and are weaned between 3 and 4 months of age. Young females tend to stay with their mother for an extended period of time while males disperse as a yearling.

Sexual maturity is reached by a year old.

Behavior

During winter they form large herds. Females tend to live in separate herds to the males who form small bachelor herds.

White-tailed deer are incredibly quick and agile.

white-tailed deer

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the white-tailed deer include pumas, wolves and coyotes.

When threatened they will flash the underside of their tails at the rest of the herd to warn them.

In many parts of their range they are outcompeted by introduced deer species.

Humans have affected their population through hunting. Vehicle collisions also affect their numbers.

This species is also declining as a result of diseases which are increasing in their infections.

Quick facts

In part of their range they also known as the venado or the Virginia deer.

The male white-tailed deer is known as the buck while the female is known as a doe.

White-tailed deer predate the last ice age and are considered the oldest deer species still found on Earth.

They are listed as the state mammal of Illinois.

white-tailed deer

Photo Credits

Public Domain. USFWS.

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Jackson, T.,2011. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animals, Birds & Fish of North America. 1st ed. Leicestershire: Lorenz Books

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Tpwd.texas.gov. 2021. White-Tailed Deer — Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. [online] Available at: <https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/resources/texas-junior-naturalists/watching-wildlife/white-tailed-deer> [Accessed 25 January 2021].

Tn.gov. 2021. White-Tail Deer In Tennessee | State Of Tennessee, Wildlife Resources Agency. [online] Available at: <https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/mammals/large/deer.html> [Accessed 25 January 2021].

Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021. White-Tailed Deer | Mammal. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/animal/white-tailed-deer> [Accessed 25 January 2021].

Cosley Zoo. 2021. White-Tailed Deer. [online] Available at: <https://cosleyzoo.org/white-tailed-deer/> [Accessed 25 January 2021].

Fossilrim.org. 2021. White-Tailed Deer – Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. [online] Available at: <https://fossilrim.org/animals/white-tailed-deer/> [Accessed 25 January 2021].

Thealexandriazoo.com. 2021. White-Tailed Deer | Alexandria Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.thealexandriazoo.com/WhiteTailedDeer.html> [Accessed 25 January 2021].

Gallina, S. and Lopez Arevalo, H. 2016. Odocoileus virginianus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T42394A22162580. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T42394A22162580.en. Downloaded on 25 January 2021.

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