White-tailed Deer Notecard

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White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

One of the most abundant large mammals in North America, the white-tailed deer, ranges over much of the continent. Thirty subspecies are recognized of which 17 are found north of Mexico. White-tails are more plentiful today than when Europeans first settled the New World. The cutting of forests and farming have favored deer populations as deer are offered more resources in fields and woods' edges than deep forests.

Early morning and dusk are the usual time of peak activity. Browse of trees and shrubs are favorite food sources over grasses although corn and alfalfa are eaten. Male deer, or bucks, grow a new set of antlers each year. The number of points and the size of the rack is more an indication of nutrition than age. The female, or doe, gives birth to 1-4 spotted fawns in the late spring. The fawns are placed in the woods or fields by the doe. She returns only to nurse them. Their spotted coats and habit of lying still protects them from most harm. At 3 weeks of age fawns begin to follow the doe. By early fall the fawn's spots disappear.

The reddish-brown coat of young and adults is gradually replaced by a grayish-brown coat. These hairs are less numerous but are hollow. The trapped air inside each hair gives the deer superb protection from the cold. White-tailed deer depend on alertness and speed to elude predators. They can reach speeds of 35 to 40 mph and can easily jump 8 feet. When they are startled they quickly dash off usually just far enough to reach protective cover. The long tail is sometimes flashed upright showing a white underside to signal other deer of alarm.

artwork and text by Cindy Page © 1992

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