White-tailed Deer

Kirsten Pariani

White tailed deer fact sheet

Over the past 30 years, especially the past-decade, populations of white-tailed deer(Odocoileus virginianus) have increased dramatically throughout the Northeast and in many midwestern and westernstates. In the 1900s New York’s deer population-rebounded from about 20,000 tomore than 1 million. Increases in deerabundance can be attributed to changes inhabitat, including reversion of abandoned farm fields to forest, and shifts in humanpopulation to rural and suburban areas.Both of these trends create open and forested habitat preferred by deer. In addition , decisions by landowners to prevent hunting have made many areas offlimits to hunters, allowing deer populationsto increase. Although the recovery ofdeer populations from only about500,000 nationwide in the early 1900s tomore than 15 million today is considereda wildlife management success story,many people increasingly view the situationwith mixed feelings.have increaseddramatically throughout the Northeastand in many midwestern and westernstates. In the 1900s New York’s deer populationrebounded from about 20,000 tomore than 1 million. Increases in deerabundance can be attributed to changes inhabitat, including reversion of abandonedfarm fields to forest, and shifts in humanpopulation to rural and suburban areas.Both of these trends create open andforested habitat preferred by deer. Inaddition, decisions by landowners to preventhunting have made many areas offlimits to hunters, allowing deer populationsto increase. Although the recovery ofdeer populations from only about500,000 nationwide in the early 1900s tomore than 15 million today is considereda wildlife management success story,many people increasingly view the situationwith mixed feelings.General BiologyThe white-tailed deer is the most widespreadand abundant member of the deerfamily and one of the best recognizedlarge mammals in North America. Whitetaileddeer are a valuable component ofour wildlife heritage and are avidly soughtby hunters, photographers, and natureobservers. The buck, or male deer, stands3 to 3 1/2 feet tall at the shoulder, weighs125 to 200 pounds, and grows antlersthat are shed annually. Does are smallerand lighter than males and lack antlers.Deer are red-brown during summerand grow brown-gray winter coats eachfall. Fawns (deer that are less than oneyear old) typically weigh 4 to 8 pounds atbirth and have red-brown hair with whitespots, which they lose as they grow theirfirst winter coat.White-tailed deer breed from mid-September through late February, and thepeak of the breeding season, or rut,occurs in November. Fawns are born inthe early summer after a 200-day gestationperiod. In their first pregnancy, doesusually give birth to a single fawn, thoughtwins are common in later years if food isabundant.Bucks begin to develop antlers inApril, and the antlers grow until Augustor early September. The size of the antlersdepends primarily on age and nutrition;older bucks typically have larger antlers.Growing antlers are covered with a skincalled “velvet.” This skin is covered withsoft hairs and contains blood vessels thatsupply nutrients to the growing antlers.When the antlers stop growing the velvetdries and is shed or rubbed off by thebuck as he polishes his antlers onsaplings, shrubs, or rocks. Bucks shedtheir polished antlers each winter inpreparation for the growth of a new set.Habitat and Food HabitsDeer live on the forest edge rather than incontinuous areas of mature forest. Theyprefer mixed conifer-hardwood forests,shrublands, and old fields with activecropland nearby. This rich mixture ofvegetation produces abundant food andPaul D. Curtis and Kristi L. SullivanCornell Cooperative Extension, Wildlife Damage Management ProgramWildlife Damage Management Fact Sheet SeriesWhite-Tailed Deer, Wildlife Damage Management Fact Sheet Series, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, N.Y. ©2001 by Cornell University.Wildlife Damage Management Fact Sheet Series, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, N.Y. ©2001 by Cornell University.cover. Deer are very adaptable, however,and greater numbers are living in suburbanneighborhoods, which have a combinationof open lawn, succulent summergardens, plentiful ornamental shrubs, andpatches of forest cover.Deer feed primarily on grasses, forbs,crops, leaves, twigs, and buds during latespring and summer. They forage on mast(e.g., beechnuts, wild cherry seeds, andacorns) during fall and concentrate almostentirely on twigs and buds during winterand early spring.The amount of food that a deer mustconsume daily depends on its gender andbody weight and the season. In general,deer consume 3 percent of their bodyweight each day. Therefore, a buck weighing125 to 250 pounds requires from4,000 to 6,000 calories each day, whichcan be obtained from 4 to 10 pounds ofgrass, forbs, and twigs.Description of DamageHomes and GardensDeer frequently feed on flowers, fruits,and vegetables and the buds and twigs offruit trees and ornamental shrubs.Damage to landscape plantings and ornamentalsmay occur at any time of year butis usually most severe in the late winterand early spring when other food suppliesare limited. Damage to fruit trees maycause both the immediate loss of the cropand residual tree injury that leads toreduced yields in the future. Deer browsingmay permanently disfigure ornamentaltrees.Forests and Wildlife HabitatDeer can also affect their own habitat andthe abundance of other wildlife species.Overpopulation can profoundly influencethe presence, absence, and abundance ofplants and other wildlife. In many forests,over-browsing of tree seedlings createsopen, park-like stands that have little orno vegetation near ground level. Insteadof a diversity of woody and herbaceousplants, the ground surface may be dominatedby ferns, grass, and woody shrub ortree species that are not preferred by deer.Wildflowers preferred by deer, such asvarious species of Trillium and Canadamayflower, may be reduced in abundanceor eliminated completely from forestswhere deer densities are high.Reduction of the understory, whichgives forests a park-like appearance,removes important nesting and feedingsites for some forest songbirds. Nesting inmore open forests can make bird eggs andnestlings easier for predators to detect.Some species may leave the area, whereasothers will be less abundant than theyonce were. In addition, other wildlife,such as squirrels and chipmunks, mustcompete for acorns, a food preferred bydeer.Deer prefer certain plant species overothers and frequently feed on economicallyvaluable tree species. For example, theyprefer oak and sugar maple seedlings, aswell as acorns, over less palatable specieslike American beech and striped maple.Thus, less marketable species are morelikely to survive to maturity, replacingmore valuable trees. This change inspecies composition will have dramaticeffects on our future forests and forestrelatedindustries.Trillium and Canadamayflower, may be reduced in abundanceor eliminated completely from forestswhere deer densities are high.Reduction of the understory, whichgives forests a park-like appearance,removes important nesting and feedingsites for some forest songbirds. Nesting inmore open forests can make bird eggs andnestlings easier for predators to detect.Some species may leave the area, whereasothers will be less abundant than theyonce were. In addition, other wildlife,such as squirrels and chipmunks, mustcompete for acorns, a food preferred bydeer.Deer prefer certain plant species overothers and frequently feed on economicallyvaluable tree species. For example, theyprefer oak and sugar maple seedlings, aswell as acorns, over less palatable specieslike American beech and striped maple.Thus, less marketable species are morelikely to survive to maturity, replacingmore valuable trees. This change inspecies composition will have dramaticeffects on our future forests and forestrelatedindustries.Economic ImpactsAnnual estimates of deer damage arereported to exceed $2 billion nationwide,including $1 billion in car damages, morethan $100 million in agricultural cropdamage, $750 million in damage to thetimber industry, and more than $250 millionin damage to metropolitan households(e.g., landscape plantings). Theseestimates are conservative, and it is oftendifficult to obtain reliable statistics forwildlife-related losses.Identifying DamageDeer feeding damage is readily distinguishedfrom that caused by rabbits orrodents. Whereas rabbits or rodents leavea clean-cut surface, deer lack upper incisorsand leave a ragged, broken end onbrowsed branches. Another indication isthe height of the damage from the ground(up to 6 feet), which often rules outsmaller mammals.



Curtis, P. D. (n.d.). White-tailed deer. Retrieved June 7, 2013, from Cornell cooperative extension website: http://wildlifecontrol.info/pubs/Documents/Deer/Deer_factsheet.pdf

Annotations

Questions

1. What would happen if the white tailed deer population had a sudden decrease?

2. How would you clarify the appearance of a fawn?

3. What's your opinion on the annual estimate of $1 billion in car damages?

4. What's the most important time of the year for deer to reproduce?

5. Why do you think deer grow velvet on their antlers?

6. What interests you the most about white-tailed deer?

Answers

1. If white-tailed deer had a sudden decrease in population, then it would effect it's predators because they would have less food

2. Fawns are very tiny, about 8-9 pounds, and have a whole bunch of tiny white spots on them and are usually born around early summer.

3. I think it's crazy how many car accidents there are with deer. There should be some way to prevent it. You would think the deer would be smart enough to stay off the road, I guess not.

4. Deer reproduction happens around mid September to late February. Most people call this rut.

5. The growth of velvet on the deer antlers is there because the antlers are still soft and growing. The velvet holds blood vessels that help make them grow.

6. White-tailed deer are fascinating in every way. They are beautiful to look at and fun to hunt. What most interests me is their behavior. Seeing them roam in the Forrest is truly something.