A white-tailed deer fawn photographed at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas
A white-tailed deer fawn photographed at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

White-Tailed Deer

Common Name:
White-Tailed Deer
Scientific Name:
Odocoileus virginianus
Type:
Mammals
Diet:
Herbivore
Group Name:
Herd
Average Life Span In Captivity:
6 to 14 years
Size:
6 to 7.75 feet
Weight:
110 to 300 pounds
IUCN Red List Status:
Least concern
Current Population Trend:
Stable

White-tailed deer, the smallest members of the North American deer family, are found from southern Canada to South America. In the heat of summer they typically inhabit fields and meadows using clumps of broad-leaved and coniferous forests for shade. During the winter they generally keep to forests, preferring coniferous stands that provide shelter from the harsh elements.

Breeding

Adult white-tails have reddish-brown coats in summer which fade to a duller grayish-brown in winter. Male deer, called bucks, are easily recognizable in the summer and fall by their prominent set of antlers, which are grown annually and fall off in the winter. Only the bucks grow antlers, which bear a number of tines, or sharp points. During the mating season, also called the rut, bucks fight over territory by using their antlers in sparring matches.

Female deer, called does, give birth to one to three young at a time, usually in May or June and after a gestation period of seven months. Young deer, called fawns, wear a reddish-brown coat with white spots that helps them blend in with the forest.

Diet and Behavior

White-tailed deer are herbivores, leisurely grazing on most available plant foods. Their stomachs allow them to digest a varied diet, including leaves, twigs, fruits and nuts, grass, corn, alfalfa, and even lichens and other fungi. Occasionally venturing out in the daylight hours, white-tailed deer are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, browsing mainly at dawn and dusk.

In the wild, white-tails, particularly the young, are preyed upon by bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes. They use speed and agility to outrun predators, sprinting up to 30 miles per hour and leaping as high as 10 feet and as far as 30 feet in a single bound.

Although previously depleted by unrestricted hunting in the United States, strict game-management measures have helped restore the white-tailed deer population.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
Photograph by James Cumming, National Geographic Your Shot

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