White tailed deer

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) — one of the three species of deer in North America. The other two species include the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and the black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus). These two living relatives of the white-tailed deer have almost the same appearance. Both deer are slightly smaller, with darker fur and antlers of a different shape.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: White-tailed deer

Photo: White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer — one of the most adaptable mammals in North America. The main reason this species has survived for so long has to do with its adaptability. When the ice age came, many organisms could not withstand the rapidly changing conditions, but white-tailed deer thrived.

This species is extremely adaptable, it was helped to survive by such features as:

  • strong leg muscles ;
  • large antlers;
  • warning signals;
  • colour-changing fur

White-tailed deer are known to use their antlers for many things, such as fighting and marking their territory. Over the past 3.5 million years, the antlers of the white-tailed deer have changed a lot due to the need to have larger and thicker sizes. Since the horns are primarily used for fighting, the general rule is that the bigger they are, the better.

The white-tailed deer is one of the oldest living land mammal species in North America. This species is about 3.5 million years old. Due to age, the ancestors of deer are quite difficult to determine. The white-tailed deer has been found to be closely related to Odocoileus brachyodontus, apart from some minor differences. It may also be related to some ancient species of moose at the DNA level.

Appearance and Features

Photo: Animal white-tailed deer

Photo: Animal white-tailed deer

The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is one of the most common wild animals in the states of America. Two seasonal molts produce two completely different skins. Summer coloration consists of short, fine hairs of a reddish-brown color. This pelt grows out in August and September and is replaced by a winter coat which consists of longer, hollow greyish brown hairs. The hollow hair and undercoat provide considerable protection from the cold winter weather.

Winter color changes to summer color in April and May. The deer’s belly, chest, throat and chin are white throughout the year. The skins of newborn fawns are reddish-brown with several hundred small white spots. This spotted color helps to hide them from predators.

Deer with aberrant color phases are not uncommon in Alabama. Pure white (albino) or black (melanistic) deer are indeed rare. However, piebald deer births are quite common throughout Alabama. Pinto deer are characterized by having an almost completely white coat with some brown spots.

Video: White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer have an excellent sense of smell. Their elongated noses are filled with a complex system that contains millions of olfactory receptors. Their keen sense of smell is very important for protection from predators, identifying other deer and food sources. Perhaps most importantly, their sense of smell is important for communicating with other deer. Deer have seven glands that are used for flavoring.

Deer also have excellent auditory perception. Their large, mobile ears allow them to detect sounds over long distances and accurately determine their direction. Deer can make a range of sounds, including various grunts, screams, whimpers, wheezes and snorts.

Approximately 38 subspecies of white-tailed deer have been described in North, Central and South America. Thirty of these subspecies are found only in North and Central America.

Where do whitetail deer live?

Photo: American Whitetail Deer

Photo: American Whitetail Deer

White-tailed deer are typically found in the Midwest of North America. These deer can live in almost any environment, but prefer mountainous areas with deciduous forests. White-tailed deer need access to open fields that are surrounded by trees or tall grass for protection from predators and foraging.

Most deer living in the United States occupy states such as:

  • Arkansas;
  • Georgia;
  • Michigan;
  • North Carolina;
  • Ohio;
  • Texas ;
  • Wisconsin;
  • Alabama.

White-tailed deer are highly adaptable to different types of habitat as well as sudden environmental changes. They can survive in areas of mature wood as well as areas with extensive open areas. For this reason, they are found in many places in North America.

White-tailed deer — adaptive creatures and survive best in areas with varied terrain. No single type of environment is ideal for deer, whether it be mature hardwoods or pine plantations. Simply put, deer need food, water, and the right landscape. Living and nutritional requirements change throughout the year, so a good habitat has enough of the ingredients needed throughout the year.

What does a white-tailed deer eat?

Photo: White-tailed deer in Russia

Photo: White-tailed deer in Russia

On average, deer eat between 1 and 3 kg of food per day for every 50 kg of body weight. A medium-sized deer consumes over a ton of feed per year. Deer — they are ruminants, and, like cattle, have a complex four-chambered stomach. By nature, deer are very selective. Their mouths are long and geared toward selecting specific foods.

The deer’s diet is as varied as its habitat. These mammals feed on leaves, branches, fruits and shoots of various trees, shrubs and vines. Deer also feed on many weeds, grasses, agricultural plantations, and several types of fungi.

Unlike cattle, deer do not feed exclusively on a limited variety of foods. White-tailed deer can eat significant amounts of all kinds of plants found in their habitat. Of course, when overcrowding causes a shortage of food, deer will eat more of a variety of foods that are not part of their usual diet.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: White-tailed deer in the forest

Photo: White-tailed deer in the forest

Groups of white-tailed deer are divided into two types. These include family groups, with fallow deer and her young offspring, and groups of males. The family group will stay together for about a year. Groups of males are structured with a dominance hierarchy of 3 to 5 individuals.

In winter, these two groups of deer can gather together, forming communities of up to 150 individuals. This association makes trails open and accessible for feeding, and provides protection from predators. Due to human feeding, these areas can cause unnaturally high deer densities that attract predators, increase the risk of disease transmission, increase community aggression, overeating local vegetation, and more collisions.

The white-tailed deer can swim, run and jump very well. The winter skin of a mammal has hollow hairs, the distance between which is filled with air. Thanks to this animal, it is difficult to drown, even if it is exhausted. White-tailed deer can run at speeds of up to 58 km per hour, although they usually head for the nearest hiding place and never cover long distances. The deer can also jump up to 2.5 meters high and 9 meters long.

When alarmed, the white-tailed deer can stamp its hooves and snort to warn other deer. The animal may also “mark” territory or raise its tail to show its white underside.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Whitetail Deer Cub

Photo: Whitetail Deer Cub

The social structure of the white-tailed deer outside the breeding season is centered on two main social groups: matriarchal and male. Matriarchal groups consist of a female, her mother, and female offspring. Male groups — these are loose groups that consist of adult deer.

Research has documented average conception dates occurring from Thanksgiving to mid-December, early January, and even February. For most habitats, the breeding season peaks in mid to late January. During this period, white-tailed males experience hormonal changes. Adult deer become more aggressive and less tolerant of other males.

During this time, males mark and defend breeding territories by creating numerous marks within their range. During the breeding season, the male may mate with the female several times.

As the birth approaches, the pregnant female becomes lonely and defends her territories from other deer. Fawns are born about 200 days after conception. In North America, most fawns are born from late July to mid-August. The number of offspring depends on the age and physical condition of the female. Typically, a one-year-old female has one fawn, but twins are very rare.

Deer herds in sub-optimal habitats that are heavily overcrowded can show poor survival among offspring. In the first few days after birth, the female rarely moves more than 100 meters away from her cubs. Fawns begin to accompany their mothers at three to four weeks of age.

Natural enemies of white-tailed deer

Photo: White Tail Deer

Photo: White Tail Deer

White-tailed deer live in forested areas. In some places, reindeer overpopulation is a problem. Gray wolves and mountain lions were predators that helped keep the population under control, but due to hunting and human development, there are not many wolves and mountain lions left in most regions of North America.

White-tailed deer sometimes become prey for coyotes, but humans and dogs are now the main enemies of this species. Since there are not many natural predators, the deer population sometimes becomes too large for the environment, causing the deer to starve to death. In rural areas, hunters help control the population of these animals, but hunting is often not allowed in suburban and urban areas, as a result of which the number of these animals continues to grow. Good survival does not mean that these deer are completely invulnerable.

Threats to the white-tailed deer population (other than natural predators) include:

  • poaching;
  • automobile accident;
  • illness.

Many hunters know that deer have very poor eyesight. White-tailed deer have dichromatic vision, which means they only see two colors. Due to the lack of good eyesight, white-tailed deer have developed a strong sense of smell to detect predators.

Catarrhal fever (“Blue tongue”) — it is a disease that affects a huge number of deer. The infestation is transmitted by the fly and causes the tongue to swell and also causes the victim to lose control of their legs. Many individuals die within a week. Otherwise, recovery can take up to 6 months. This disease also affects many species of terrestrial mammals.

Population and species status

Photo: Animal white-tailed deer

Photo: Animal White Tailed Deer

Deer were rare in most states of North America until recent years. In the early 1900s, it was estimated that there were only about 2,000 deer in the state of Alabama alone. After decades of efforts to increase the population, the number of deer in the state of Alabama in 2000 was estimated at 1.75 million animals.

In fact, many areas of North America are overpopulated with deer. As a result, crops are damaged, and the number of collisions between reindeer and vehicles increases. Historically, the predominant white-tailed deer subspecies in North America has been the Virginia (O. v. virginianus). After the near-extinction of white-tailed deer from the Midwestern states in the early 1900s, the Department of Conservation, along with some individuals and groups, began to fight to increase the number of deer in the 1930s.

In the early 1900s, laws were passed to regulate deer hunting, but they were hardly enforced. By 1925, there were only 400 deer in Missouri. This reduction has led the Missouri Legislature to end deer hunting altogether and strictly enforce protection and restoration regulations.

The Department of Conservation has made efforts to relocate deer to Missouri from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to help replenish the animal population. Conservation agents began to enforce rules that helped prevent poaching. By 1944, the deer population had increased to 15,000.

Currently, the number of deer in Missouri alone is 1.4 million, and about 300,000 animals are hunted annually by hunters. Deer management in Missouri is trying to stabilize the population at a level that is within the biological capacity of nature.

White-tailed deer — graceful and beautiful animal, playing an important role for wildlife. To ensure the health of forests, deer herds must be balanced with their habitat. Natural Balance — a key factor for the well-being of wildlife.

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