The whitetail deer, or scientifically known as Odocoileus virginianus, is one of the most known animals in America. They are found just about everywhere in the United States and can also be found in Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Because they are found all over, deer hunting has become a major sport and in the U.S. People hunt them for food and also for the challenge of getting the “big buck.”
Whitetails usually grow to three and a half foot tall and weigh 50 to 400 pounds depending on whether it is male or female. The deer reaches its biggest size in the north, up to 4 feet tall and 400 pounds, and it’s smallest in the south, where they barely weigh more than 50 pounds. During the summer and fall their fur is reddish brown and during the winter and spring it is blue-gray.
They get their name from their tale, which is white on the underside, but probably the deer’s most noticeable trait is its antlers, which are only found on males. There are two main “beams” from which the horns come off of, each of them grow from the head backwards but then quickly changes and goes forward. The rest of the horns grow off of these two main horns. The deer antlers are the fastest growing tissue known to man, growing as much as a half an inch daily. When the antlers are growing, they are covered with a living tissue called velvet, during this time they are extremely delicate and sensitive to the touch.
Since the deer is a prey species, the ability to run is a big help to its livelihood. They also can also, depending on the situation, trot, walk, or crawl under obstacles. If necessary a deer can reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour, it can also jump up to eight feet in the air to clear fences, logs, or other obstacles.
Whitetail deer are found all over the United States, except most of California, Nevada, Utah, northern Arizona, southwest Colorado, and northwest New Mexico. They are also found in Canada and South America. They are found in farmlands, brushy areas, and forests. A deer won’t travel far during their lifetime. Their home range is about one square mile. Within this range is all the necessary needs for survival, including food, water, escape cover, and shelter. The only time they leave this range is during breeding season, when a buck may leave to find a partner.
Whitetails are known as browsers, because they wander looking for food, but they stay close to the woods for quick escape cover. The deer’s feeding habits are flexible, they eat green plants, acorns, nuts, corn, and browse on twigs and buds of birch, maple, and conifer trees.
The breeding season of the deer begins in October. During this time the bucks fight fierce battles for possession of the does. During some of these battles the horns of the deer become interlocked and they both starve to death. The young fawns are usually born in May. They may range from three to eight pounds at birth, but they double in size during the next two weeks. Fawns are born with natural camouflage, have white spots on their back. The number of fawns that a doe has depends on how old it is.. The firstborn is always single, then after that she could have two or three, or in the very rare cases four. The life expectancy for whitetails is fifteen to twenty years, and during her first fourteen years a doe could have thirty-one fawns.
Whitetail deer are some of the most abundant mammals in North America, and they go back almost 2.5 million years. They were in large numbers until the mid 1800’s when the popularity of deer hides and meat caused over half of the population to be killed. But, now due to new laws and better wildlife protection the number has been rising, and the number is expected to get even larger.
Whitetails Unlimited (1998). Whitetail Facts. Available: http://www.whitetailsunlimited.org/whitetailwonders/facts.html (Visited 1999, November 16)
Whitetails Unlimited (1998). What Makes a Whitetail Different? Available: http://www.whitetailsunlimited.org/whitetailwonders/makes.html (Visited 1999, November 16)