White Tailed Deer

Ococoileus virginianus

Appearance

White-tailed deer are about two metres long and one metre tall. In the summer their coat is reddish-brown and by the winter they appear more greyish-brown with a white belly, legs and throat and a distinct white underside to their tail. The males can weigh up to 102 kilograms and the females are no larger than 75 kilograms. Their weight changes greatly between seasons and between years when food is scarce or the weather is bad. Only the males grow antlers and each set of antlers falls off every year and a new set replaces them. The antlers get larger as the male deer age up until they are five years old.

Range & Habitat

The white-tailed deer’s range is from British Columbia to Nova Scotia and southward into the entire United States. The deer like to stay in areas where the snow is not too deep so they choose these places to live in B.C. They like valleys that have less snow cover making it easier for them to find food on the ground.

Diet & Behaviour

The diet of the white-tail deer depends on the time of year. In the spring they mostly eat grasses and green herbs, they will even go into farming areas to eat from fields of alfalfa. In the winter they look for broken branches of trees such as Douglas fir that fall on the ground, and other shrubs like seedling cottonwoods and snowbrush. The bucks can be seen grazing alone in the summertime while the female doe and her young fawns stay together. The deer will band together during the winter when food is scarce as the snow may be high and feeding areas may be limited. The males will fight during breeding season using their antlers to push each other around.

Lifecycle & Threats

The white-tail deer mate in the fall and the fawns are born in the spring with the warming weather. The doe can have quadruplets, triplets or single births but twins are most common for the species. They have been recorded to survive up to 20 years but the average life span of the deer is 10 years. Grey wolves, bobcats, cougars and bears are predators of the whitetail in B.C. They are also hunted by humans for food, hides and antlers.

Status

COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Yellow

More Information

www.env.gov.bc.ca

Photo: SeattleRoamer