This medium-sized member of the deer family is common all across the North American continent. Named for the patch of fluffy, white fur on the undersides of their tails, white-tailed deer are a success story for wildlife management, since their numbers had been decimated by unlimited hunting by the 1930s. However, protections for the deer were put into place, and now there are millions of white-tailed deer in the United States.
1. Scientific & Common Names
4. Present Status
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Artiodactyla
Family - Cervidae
Subfamily - Capreolinae
Genus - Ododcoileus
Species - O. virginianus
Common Names - White-tailed Deer, Whitetail
White-tailed deer have long, slender legs and move with graceful, bounding leaps when startled. Adult deer have red-brown coats in the summer and grayish coats in winter. Young deer, called fawns, are born a light tan with white spots. In summer and fall, male deer grow an impressive pair of antlers that drop off at the end of the breeding season. Male deer, known as bucks, sometimes weigh up to 300 pounds, and females usually weigh about 175 pounds.
White-tailed deer breed in late fall and early winter. Bucks will fight with one another during the rut, or breeding season, for the privilege of mating with females that are in heat. The female deer, called does, are pregnant for about 200 days before giving birth. Yearling does usually only have a single fawn, but mature does may have twins. Fawns are born in late spring and are weaned between 4 and 6 months of age.
White-tailed deer are grazing herbivores that are also ruminants. They prefer living in areas with plenty of low-growing, tender vegetation. In warm months, they graze on grasses and plants. In winter, they eat acorns, bark and twigs from woody plants. White-tailed deer usually graze in the cool parts of the day, in early morning and at dusk. Deer live in family groups of a mother and her fawns. When a doe does not have a fawn, she is solitary. Except during the rut, when they are solitary, bucks live in small groups of three or four individuals.
In the past, the numbers of white-tailed deer were depleted by unlimited hunting. However, management procedures and hunting restrictions since the 1930s have helped white-tailed deer populations rebound to the point that they are extremely common animals in the United States.
White-tailed deer are currently distributed all across North America, including parts of southern Canada, and in some areas of Central America.