A white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is a medium-sized deer, native to the North American continent. It has 18 subspecies spread across the southern areas of Canada and most of the United States. Of late, it has also been introduced to some parts of Europe.
Some Interesting Facts about White-Tailed Deer
The white-tailed deer is named so, as the underside of its tail is white in color. This white side is displayed to warn the herd of danger, so it plays an important role in communication in this species. The species is also known as the Virginia deer or jumping deer.
It sports a reddish-brown coat in summer and spring, which changes to dull grayish brown in winter. The male white-tailed may weigh between 150 to 300 pounds, whereas the female weighs about 100 to 200 pounds. Only male species or bucks sport antlers, which have branches and sharp-pointed edges. These antlers, which prove useful in territorial battles, are shed every year. As for its lifespan, it ranges from 6 to 14 years. On an average, it lives for about 11 years.
The white-tailed deer communicates with the other members of the herd by making different sounds, through scents, and body language. Snorts are meant to alert the herd of approaching threat. (As for fawns, they 'bleat' to call their mother.) The scent glands on its legs helps the white-tailed demarcate its territory.
Mating takes place between October and December, which is followed by a gestation period of 7 months. The doe gives birth to 1 or 2 fawns by June. The fawns have reddish-brown coats with white spots. These white spots disappear within a year. They start walking at birth, and are completely weaned by the completion of six weeks of age. Although the herd consists of a doe and her young ones, bucks join the group during the mating period and try to keep the other bucks away.
Basically herbivorous in nature, it can eat anything ranging from leaves and shrubs to shoots and cactus. It feeds on green leaves in summer, but has to satiate its hunger with nuts and twigs in winter. Its specially designed stomach allows it to quickly eat food, without even chewing properly, and then ruminate to digest it. Some bacteria present in its stomach change according to its dietary habit, thus making it easier for the white-tailed deer to eat and digest food.
Its predators include gray wolves, cougars, bobcats, coyotes, and bears. Scavengers like vultures, hawks, eagles, and foxes relish on its carrion and young ones. The species mainly depends on its sense of smell to sense danger, and eventually resorts to snorting or stamping to alert the herd.
The species is nocturnal and crepuscular in nature, so most often active at dawn and dusk. Being a very good sprinter, the white-tailed can clock a speed of 30 miles per hour and swim at a speed of 13 miles per hour.
On the verge of extinction at one point of time, the white-tailed deer is seen in plenty today. In fact, the wildlife conservation methods have been so successful that it is feared that the overpopulation of this species will overburden biodiversity.