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White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer
(Odocoileus virginianus)
(Order:  Artiodactyla, Family:  Cervidae)


Description:  The white-tailed deer is the smallest member of the deer family in Kansas.  These deer are reddish-brown in color in the summer (which fades to a duller grayish-brown in winter) and have a white underside on the body and tail. The males have antlers that are grown annually and shed each winter. The antlers  originate from one beam on each side of the head and have 3-6 unforked tines on each side.  Total body length for adults is 54-86 inches, with a tail length of 6-14 inches.  They usually weigh between 90-300 pounds.

White-tailed Deer tracks

Habitat and Range:  They are found all throughout North America, including most of the United States and southern Canada, and occur south through Central America to northern South America. These animals can be found along the forest’s edge, in woodlands, and along the wooded banks of Kansas’ rivers and streams. The subspecies found in eastern Kansas is Odocoileus virginianus macrourus, while Odocoileus virginianus texanus occurs in western Kansas.

 
White-Tailed Deer Range (in light orange)

Diet:  White-tailed deer are herbivores, so they eat mostly plants and other vegetation.  They tend to feed at dawn and at dusk on leaves, stems, buds, and bark; they have also been known to eat acorns, grain crops like soy beans, milo, corn, and alfalfa.

Behavior and Communication:  These creatures are very silent movers and are rarely seen during the day.  When frightened, these animals signal danger by “flagging” their tails in an upright position, which is how they got their name.  In the wild, white-tails, particularly the young, are preyed upon by bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes.  They flee from danger at up to 35 mph, are excellent jumpers, easily clearing 8-10 feet high fences, and can leap as far as 30 feet in a single bound.  They are also excellent swimmers.

Link to sounds of the White-tailed Deerhttp://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/white-tailed-deer/

Reproduction:  The mating season is from late September through January, and it normally peaks in November. Bucks compete for individual does over 1.5 years of age each season.  After a gestation period of about 200 days, a doe bears one to two fawns, depending on her age and condition, usually in May.

Size of a male White-tailed Deer relative to a 6 ft human

Conservation Status:  Although it now exists in and around thickly settled human communities, in 1933 these deer were thought to be nearly extinct in Kansas.  Newly arrived settlers shot them for food without limit. Coupled with land clearing for agriculture, the deer’s population declined to very low levels.  However, since 1945, with the protection of game laws, the white-tailed deer has reoccupied its former range in and are now seen considerable numbers all over Kansas.


References:
Hall, E.R. 1955. The Handbook of the Mammals of Kansas. Lawrence:  Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas.


Links:
NatureWorks: http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/whitetaileddeer.htm

Great Plains Nature Center: http://www.gpnc.org/deerwt.htm

Mammals of Kansas: http://www.ksr.ku.edu/libres/mammals_of_kansas/odo-virgini.html


Image Credits:

Global Distribution Map and all Figures from http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/white-tailed-deer/

Pictures of Odocoileus virginianus by:  Casey Cantrell, July, 2011


Submitted by:  Casey Cantrell, July 2011

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Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
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