The Whitetail Deer

By: Austin Hooker


Scientists believe that deer once inhabited cold regions around the Arctic Circle. It wasn't until about 4 million years ago that the first deer migrated to what we now call the United States (History Of Whitetail Deer 1). By 1970 whitetail populations were growing steadily across the lower 48 states. For years hunters had thought it a crime to shoot a doe. But a study in 1974 changed that. According to the article "History of Whitetail Deer," "Scientist M.L. Walls found that the long term management of booming deer herds should include the harvest of both bucks and does. States gradually began implementing "doe days" and "antlerless' hunting seasons" (8).


According to Kathy Jacobs, "White-tailed deer are highly adaptable species and thrive in a variety of habitats. The areas that provide the most suitable environment include a mixture of hardwoods, croplands, brush lands and pastureland's" (1). Whitetail Deer need many verities of food to grow and reproduce. During the summer months, from April to September, Whitetail Deer feed on grasses, agricultural crops, fruits, and legumes. While in the fall deer eat on acorns, beechnuts, and corn. In the Winter Whitetail survive on buds and twigs from birch, maple, and coniferous trees (Bagley 4).

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Female deer called does, give birth to one to three young at a time, usually in May or June and after a gestation period of seven months. Young deer called fawns, wear a reddish brown coat with white spots that helps them camouflage with the forest (National Geographic 3). Fawns can walk at birth and forage for food a couple days later (NHPTV 9). Fawns begin the weaning process, not drinking the mothers milk, at approximately 5 or 6 weeks old (NHPTV 10). When the mother deer, or doe, leaves its young to graze, she hides her fawn for sometimes hours, and if the doe has multiple fawns she hides them all in separate spots. To hide, fawns lay on the ground with their heads and necks stretched flat on the ground so predators have a harder time finding the young (NHPTV 10).
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Fall and Rut

Adult whitetails have reddish brown coats in summer which fade to a duller grayish-brown in winter. Male deer called bucks, are easily recognizable in the summer and fall by their set of antlers which are grown annually and fall off in the winter. Bucks grow antlers, which hold a number of sharp points. During the mating season, also called the rut, bucks fight over territory by using their antlers (National Geographic 2). Rut is caused by rising testosterone levels in whitetail bucks, and when does begin to come into estrous (Grossman 8). When testosterone levels run high, bucks become much less tolerant of one another, and any sign of another buck can be all it takes to make a mature deer defend his territory (Grossman 10).


Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, EHD, and Blue tongue are very similar. Deer lose their appetite, fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, often salivate excessively, develop a rapid pulse and respiration rate, and a fever. Infected animals often use lakes and rivers to lie in to reduce their body temperature but become unconscious and die. Hemorrhage and lack of oxygen in the blood results in a blue appearance of the oral mucosa, or tongue, hence the name blue tongue (NWHC 3). According to the "Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries", "Chronic Wasting Disease, CWD, is a fatal neurological disease of deer, resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions, and ultimately death" (1).

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