Photo by: Jerry Mercier
Species: White-tailed deer
Scientific name:Odocoileus viriginianus
Description: The white-tailed deer is a smaller ungulate species found in Ontario. They have a reddish brown to grayish brown body, with white belly, throat, chin and bum (under the tail). White-tailed deer have large ears and bucks (reproductive males) have large antlers that they grow every year starting late spring. Antlers start covered in velvety tissue and will peel off to reveal the characteristic bony antlers underneath. Antlers are shed when all females have bred, usually late December-February. Fawns (baby deer), are spotted white at birth and the spots fade as they get older.
Habitat: White-tailed deer prefer a mixture of open areas and forest, which provide coverage. They are commonly seen in woodlands, meadows and abandoned farms and near streams. During the summer months, deer will be found in forested areas where there is abundant food. However, in the winter, when there is less food and the snow is deep, deer will concentrate in “deer yards” where there is food and shelter from winter storms.
Breeding: Healthy deer populations reproduce quickly and are capable of almost doubling their numbers in a good year. A doe (female deer) will be able to breed at six-seven months of age and will give birth to one or two fawns in late spring. However, most fawns are born late May-early June. Fawns are able to walk within minutes of birth. The mother will leave the fawn in the den, usually a depression in leaves on the forest floor, to feed herself which will provide enough nutrients for the milk the fawn depends on.
Diet: White-tailed deer are vegetarians, feeding on leafy material from trees and woody plants, as well as grasses and herbs. During the winter months, when leafy materials aren’t available, deer will switch their diet to twigs and buds, and will eat whatever leafy material they can find. White-tailed deer will eat on average 2-5 kg of food per day.
Threats to species: Predators are one of the biggest threats to deer populations. Predators for white-tailed deer are wolves and humans, although coyotes will prey on sick and young deer. Other threats include harsh winters, where food is limiting, and wildlife disease.
Threat to humans: Vehicle collisions with deer are increasing occurring in Ontario and pose a major threat to both human and deer. Additionally, the white-tailed deer is a carrier of the ticks which can cause disease in humans.
Fun facts: White-tailed deer are named for their bright white underside of their tail, which they will raise when it is alarmed. Raising their tail signals to other deer that there is danger and provides a guide to follow away from danger.
People who happen to find a fawn by itself mistakenly believe that it has been abandoned by its mother and will take it in. This is not the case, the do will rarely abandoned her fawn, and will return after she has gotten food. If you find a fawn, please left it alone and DO NOT TOUCH IT, the scent of humans may cause the doe to abandon her fawn.
Hinterland Who’s Who- http://www.hww.ca/en/species/mammals/white-tailed-deer.html
Eder, Tamara, and Kennedy, Gregory. 2011. Mammals of Canada. Lorne Pine Publishing. Edmonton, Alberta.