White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
White-tailed Deer are the smallest members of the North American Deer family. They make their home in forest habitats during winter months and in fields and meadows during warmer months. We are fortunate to have them as wild residents of both Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo and Beardsley Park. They get their name from the fur on the underside of their tail. The top is reddish-brown but the underside is white fur. They display and wag their tails when they sense danger.
As adults, White-tailed Deer have furry coats that are a reddish brown which fades to a grayish brown in winter months. They have white patches of fur on their lower legs and faces.The young have reddish-brown coats with white spots that help as camouflage. Adult females are called does and the young are called fawns.
Adult males are called bucks and they grow antlers every year in April or May that have a layer of velvet on them. In August or September, the antlers shed their velvet and are used in sparring matches with other males for mating rights. The antlers fall off in winter. Each year that the antlers grow back, they are larger and have more points.If a buck reaches an advanced age, the antlers may grow back smaller and thinner.
White-tailed Deer, on average, weigh between 125 and 300 pounds. Their bodies are between 5 and 7 feet long. At the shoulder, they are between 2 and 4 feet tall. They have good eyesight and hearing.
They are shy, nervous and easily startled. They use speed and agility to outrun predators. They can sprint up to 30 mph. They can leap as high as 10 feet off the ground and as far as 30 feet in one leap. They are also excellent swimmers and use streams or lakes to escape predators.
White-tailed Deer are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, which means they are most active at night and browse for food mainly at dawn and dusk. They will occasionally venture out during daylight hours.
They communicate with each other via scents and vocally via grunts, wheezes and bleats. Disturbed deer often whistle or snort to vocalize their annoyance.
During warm weather, they inhabit fields and meadows near forests that they can use for shade. In colder weather, they keep to the coniferous forests for shelter from the harsher weather.
They can be found all over the Unites States and from Southern Canada to South America.
Herbivore. They eat a variety of plant food including leaves, twigs, grass, corn, acorns and even lichen and other fungi. Their diet varies by season since they eat what is available. Adults eat between 5 to 7 pounds of food each day depending on the season.
A female usually gives birth to one fawn in her first pregnancy but in later years may have two or three each time. Fawns can walk as soon as they are born. They nurse until they are weaned at 10 weeks of age. Females are very protective of their fawns. They leave them in hiding places when they forage for food, and the fawn will lay flat on the ground with their necks stretched out for as long as four hours. The ground provides excellent camouflage. Fawns start to follow their mothers to forage at one month. Young males stay with their mother for one year and females stay for two years. Families live together in herds.
The average life span is 3 years in the wild but can be as long as 10 years in the wild. In human care, the average lifespan is 16 years and has been recorded to be as long as 23 years.