White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed Deer occur over a very wide area, and in spite of hunting pressures the species remains generally common, thanks partly to its reproductive rate.

White-Tailed Deer are very wary, and will sprint off at speeds of up to 64 kph (40 mph) if they feel threatened. They can also swim well, plunging readily into a river or lake to escape danger. Although occurring across a wide range of different habitats, they generally seek out lightly wooded countryside. The fawns have white spotted markings on their backs, which helps to break up their outline when they are lying still, hidden amongst vegetation.

White-tailed deer, or Virginia deer as they are called in the United States, prefer areas with tall grasses or shrubs to hide in during the day. When the deer spot predators, they raise their white tails to expose the white patches on their rumps. This serves as a visual warning to other deer that danger is near. If pursued, the deer bound away, reaching 60 kmh (37 mph).

White-tailed deer have brown fur on their upper parts and white undersides. The white fur extends under the tail, which gives the species its name. The males shed their antlers in midwinter and grow new ones in spring.

White-tailed deer live in matriarchies, with each small group being controlled by a single adult female, which is the mother of the rest of the group. The adult males live alone or in small bachelor herds. In the autumn mating season, males mark plants with scent produced by glands on their faces, and urinate in depressions scraped into the ground. The males fight with their antlers - rut - for the right to court females.

Distribution: Occurs across most of North America, from Canada to Florida (although absent in arid western areas), extending through Central America to Bolivia in South America.

Habitat: Shrublands and open woodland.

Weight: 50 – 115 kg (110 – 254 lb); northern races larger than those from the southern USA.

Length: 195 – 208 cm (77 – 82 in), including tail; up to 105 cm (41 in) tall.

Maturity: 2 years.

Gestation Period: 200-217 days; weaning occurs 4 months later.

Number of Offspring: 2, occasionally 3 or 4.

Diet: Herbivorous, eating grasses and shrubs, as well as agricultural crops.

Lifespan: Up to 10 years in captivity.

Status: Common.

Antlers

These are shed between January and March, and will have started to regrow by May.

Colouration

White fur on the face extends down to the underside of the body.

Ears

Although not very large, the ears serve to alert the deer to possible danger.

Scent glands

There are scent glands on the legs, which are used for marking territory.

SIGNS OF ALARM

When running or alarmed, White-Tailed Deer raise their long tails vertically, as shown here, showing the reason for their common name.

Gallery of White-Tailed Deer