Forest Finding: White-Tailed Deer

by Colleen Dabrowski

Odocoileus virginianus, commonly known as the white-tailed deer, is a medium-sized deer that is native to the United States, Mexico, Canada, Central America and South America. It has also been introduced to New Zealand, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and Lesser Antilles, as well as Finland, the Czech Republic and Serbia, according to Wikipedia. Because of its incredible spread, the white-tailed deer is of no extinction concern.

The deer are between six feet and eight feet tall and weigh anywhere from 110 pounds to 300 pounds. In captivity, the deer live between six years and fourteen years, though their lifespan in the wild has not been accurately quantified, according to National Geographic. The white-tailed deer is the smallest of the North American deer family.

Adult white-tailed deer are a reddish brown color in the summer, though their colors fade to a dull grey-brown in winter. In the summer and fall, male bucks grow large antlers which they use during the mating season, or rut, for sparring. The antlers are shed in the winter, making the males and females much more similar in appearance. Female deer give birth to between one and three fawns at a time, usually in May or June, after a seven-month gestation period. Fawns have an iconic reddish-brown coat with white spots that help them blend in with shrubbery.  

White-tailed deer are herbivores. Their diet consists of almost any plant matter, as they have strong stomachs that can digest a wide variety of things. White-tailed deer are nocturnal or crepuscular, meaning they typically go out at dusk and dawn. In the wild, white-tailed deer are preyed upon by predators such as bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes, according to National Geographic. In order to escape predators, white-tailed deer can run at speeds upwards of thirty miles per hour and are incredibly agile. The deer also have an impressive leap they use in escapes that can be as high as ten feet and as far as thirty feet.

These deer can be seen all over campus. Keep your eyes peeled for deer tracks in the snow this winter!

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