white-tailed deer

White-tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus


Description

The coat of the White-tailed Deer is reddish-brown in summer and grayish-brown in winter. The belly, throat and areas around the mouth and nose are white. The underside of the tail is also white, giving the species its name. Young deer less than 6 months old have coats that are covered with white spots. Males have antlers that fall off each year in December or January and begin regrowing in April or May.

Size

Adult White-tailed Deer range in weight from 125 to 225 pounds. Males are larger than females. Deer can stand up to 45 inches high at the shoulder and measure up to 7 feet long.

Adaptations

Diet

White-tailed Deer are herbivores (plant-eaters) whose diets vary according to habitat and season. They are both browsers (animals which eat twigs and leaves) and grazers (which eat grasses). Common food items include green plants (summer), corn, acorns and other nuts (fall), and buds and twigs of woody plants (winter). At Cosley Zoo, the deer are fed a commercial herbivore diet, hay, and branches from a variety of trees.

Reproduction

In this part of the country, White-tailed Deer mate in the late fall. Does (females) give birth to 1 to 3 young after a 6-month gestation. The fawns can walk at birth and are able to forage for food a couple of days later. They are weaned at about 6 weeks of age. Female fawns may stay with their mother for 2 years. Males usually leave after 1 year.

Shelter and Space Needs

White-tailed Deer live in wooded areas near clearings or farm fields.

Life Expectancy

White-tailed Deer have an average life expectancy of 2-3 years in the wild. In captivity, they may live up to 15 years.

Importance to Man

White-tailed Deer play an important role in their ecosystems as a major prey animal for many large predators. They are commonly hunted for meat and sport. The large amount of money that is collected for hunting licenses plays an important role in protecting our environment.

Fun Facts