White-tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus

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  • White-tailed Deer | The National Geographical Society c1916 Photo: Harvey Barrison
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Basic Information

Other names

Whitetail, Virginia Deer

Order

Artiodactyla

Family

Cervidae

Size

White-tailed Deer are generally between 5 and 7.75 feet in length.

Lifespan

up to 10 years

Weight

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) facts, habitat, diet, range, deer pictures and more to help you learn to identify the large mammal.

Diet

Herbivore

Breeding

Male and female Whitetail Deer reach sexual maturity by two years of age. The first time a female mates, they generally only give birth to one fawn, however subsequent years generally yield more young. Breeding occurs in the fall.

Range

Nationwide except southern Rocky Mtns. through California.

Number of Offspring

1-3 Fawns

Danger

White-tailed Deer are hosts to ticks, which can carry Lyme Disease.

Observation Tips

Keep your eyes peeled along country roads in the east and you are bound to spot a few.

What does the White-tailed Deer look like?

White-tailed Deer change color slightly depending on the season. In the winter their upper bodies tend to be grayer, while in the summer they tend to be a more rusty red. Males grow new antlers each spring and shed them in the winter. Both sexes have white undersides and a bushy white undertail, hence their name. Males tend to be larger than females and both sexes tend to be larger the further away they get from the equator. They have good vision, hearing and sense of smell. Fawns have white spots along their backs and flanks.

White-tailed Deer Habitat

Open Forests

White-tailed Deer Facts

White-tailed Deer are the mostly widely distributed hoofed-mammal in North America. There more than 35 different subspecies that span the Americas. They are very skittish and respond to potential predators by heavy breathing called "blowing," and waving their tails back and forth, afterwards they bolt up to 30 mph. This alerts other deer in the area that predators are nearby. They are also excellent swimmers and can ford large streams with ease to escape predation. During the fall breeding season bucks will clash antlers in attempts to woe a female companion. Once a doe has a fawn, she is extremely careful to hide it from predators. While the mother is foraging the fawn will lay perfectly still and as flat as possible on the ground, withholding any urges to expel waste until the mother has returned, often hours later. Native Americans used Whitetails, as they are commonly called, for a variety of reasons. Today, they are often hunted for sport and meat. White-tailed Deer have dichromatic (two-color) vision. Humans have trichromatic vision. Deer can't see orange and reds well, thus convenient fall hunting colors that offer safety for hunters and camouflage from deer. Their numbers are increasing, especially in the eastern forests.

See also