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White-tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus

 

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White-tailed Deer, male flagging
credit: Scott Bauer

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Family: Cervidae, Deer view all from this family



Description Ears are smaller and tail is larger and whiter than in the Mule Deer. Males have antlers consisting of smaller vertical tines branching off the single main beam. Year-old male fawns have small “buttons” of antlers. Antlers are shed in December and January and regrown over the summer. Long tail is brown above, white below, and fringed in white on the sides. Coat is reddish brown to bright tan in the summer, duller and grayer in the winter. Fawns are reddish and spotted with white. Males average 20% larger than females and northern populations are larger; the Endangered Dwarf Key Deer (O. v. clavium) from the Florida Keys stands 60cm at the shoulder and weighs ca. 35kg. The Columbian White-tailed Deer subspecies (O. v. leucurus) from coastal Oregon and Washington is also Endangered. Once thought to number 40 million, populations were reduced to about a half million by the end of the nineteenth century. Subsequent management resulted in rebounding populations that now number 15 million in the US alone, with an annual hunter harvest of 2 million. Prefers forest edges and open woodlands near brushlands, especially old fields and agricultural areas. Uses a variety of forested habitats from temperate to tropical, semiarid to rain forest, making it one of our most widespread species.


Dimensions 0.8-2.4m, 10-37cm, 22-137kg; / 30-90kg


Endangered Status Two subspecies of the White-tailed Deer are on the U.S. Endangered Species List. The Key Deer is classified as endangered in Florida, and the Columbian White-tailed Deer is classified as endangered in Washington and Oregon. The Key Deer declined in number as more and more of its habitat in the Florida Keys underwent development throughout the 20th century. Development continues to be a threat to the subspecies today. In 1961 the National Key Deer Refuge was established to protect the deer. The population has risen from a possible low of 25 animals in 1955 to about 250 to 300 today. The Columbian White-tailed Deer once ranged from Puget Sound to southern Oregon, where it lived in floodplain and riverside habitat. The conversion of much of its homeland to agriculture and unrestricted hunting reduced its numbers to a just a few hundred in the early 20th century. It now lives in a few scattered populations, and its numbers have climbed to over 6,000. Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian Whitetail Deer provides critical habitat for these deer in southern Washington.


Warning The White-tailed Deer population has become a public-health concern with the onset of Lyme disease, which is transmitted by ticks carried by the deer. These ticks are tiny and their nymphs are almost microscopic; both nymphs, active May through July, and adults, active on warm days from August through May, can be infectious. They inhabit woods and fields, especially where deer are numerous, and occur on both deer and mice. Lyme disease is a dangerous bacterial illness. Initial symptoms vary, but about 75 to 80 percent of all victims develop a circular, expanding, bulls-eye-shaped red rash around the tick bite, up to 35 days after the bite. Other symptoms include stiff neck, headache, dizziness, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, joint pain, and general weakness. Antibiotics are most effective in early stages of infection. Untreated Lyme disease can be difficult to cure, and may cause chronic arthritis, memory loss, and severe headaches.


Habitat Cities, suburbs & towns, Forests & woodlands, Grasslands & prairies, Meadows & fields, Scrub, shrub & brushlands


Range Plains, Great Lakes, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Florida, Texas, Northwest, Eastern Canada, Western Canada


Discussion Once thought to number 40 million, populations were reduced to about a half million by the end of the nineteenth century. Subsequent management resulted in rebounding populations that now number 15 million in the US alone, with an annual hunter harvest of 2 million. Prefers forest edges and open woodlands near brushlands, especially old fields and agricultural areas. Uses a variety of forested habitats from temperate to tropical, semiarid to rain forest, making it one of our most widespread species.


 

 

 

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