Creature Feature: White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
By Emma Dean, CG Science Editor
White-tailed deer have, unlike other species, continued to thrive as the human population increases. At the turn of the 19th century, the deer population was less than a million, but has increased to about 25 million. Part of the successful survival of this species is its ability to adapt to almost any environment. White-tailed deer can be found from southern Canada to South America.
Traditionally, the white-tailed deer population has also been kept in check with predators such as bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes. Without many of these larger animals, humans are the main predators.
Related to other members of the North American family such as elk, moose and caribou, the White-tailed deer is similar to domesticated cows in that it is also a ruminant which means that it has four stomachs as part of its digestive system. The four stomachs allows the deer to eat a variety of plant materials such as young leaves and stems as well as fungi, fruits and to the chagrin of farmers, agricultural crops.
Though does tend to travel in groups, especially during the winter, bucks are more solitary until the breeding season or rut when they actively seek a mate. Bucks rub their new antlers against small saplings in order to mark their territory. They also use their antlers to spar with other bucks.
- A White-tailed deer will consume about seven pounds of vegetation per day.
- The large ears of a White-tailed deer pick up high-frequency sounds and can rotate 180 degrees.
- Though deer are often sighted during the day, they are nocturnal animals which prefer to browse at dawn and dusk.
- Male deer are also known as bucks, bulls, stags or harts.
- Does or cows are additional monikers for female deer.
- While growing, antlers are covered in a sensitive tissue known as velvet and after they’ve matured, the velvet falls away and a bone-like structure remains.
- Only bucks grow antlers.
- The underside of a White-tailed deer is white and displayed as a sort of warning flag to other deer when a deer is fleeing from a threat.