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Common Name: Whitetail Deer

Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylun: Chorodata

Class: Manmalia


Family: Cervidae


Species: O. virginianus


The Whitetail deer inhabit most of Southern Canada and the entire mainland United States except two or three states in the west. Their range reaches throughout Central America to Bolivia. Whitetail deer are able to survive in a variety of habitats, from the big woods of northern Maine to the deep saw grass and hammock swamps of Florida. They also inhabit farmlands, brushy areas and very desolate areas of the west such as the cactus and thorn brush deserts of southern Texas and Mexico. Ideal whitetail deer habitat would contain dense thickets (in which to hide and move about) and edges (which furnish food).

Head and body length is 150 to 200 cm, tail length is 10 to 28 cm, and height at the shoulders is between 80 and 100cm. Whitetail deer are grayer in the winter and redder in the summer. White fur is located in a band behind the nose, in circles around the eyes, inside the ears, over the chin and the throat, on the upper insides of the legs and beneath the tail. Whitetail deer have scent glands between the two parts of the hoof on all four feet, metatarsal glands on the outside of each hind leg, and a larger tarsal gland on the inside of each hind leg at the hock. The scent from these glands is used for interspecies communication and secretion become especially strong during the rutting season.


Males possess antlers which are shed from January to March and grow out again in April or May, losing their velvet in August or September. Most of the time the white-tailed deer lives about 2 to 3 yrs. Maximum lifespan in the wild is 20 yrs but few live past 10 yrs old. Whitetail deer feed on a variety of vegetation, depending on what is available in their habitat. In the eastern forest, buds, and twigs of maple, sassafras, poplar, aspen, and birch (to name a few) are consumed, as well as many shrubs. In desert areas, plants such as huajillo brush, yucca, prickly pear cactus, and comal. The Whitetail must have good eyesight and acute hearing but depend mainly on their sense of smell to detect danger and their ability to run and bound quickly through dense vegetation to escape danger.


The whitetail deer are preyed on by large predators such as humans, wolves, mountain lions, bears, jaguars, and coyotes. At birth, fawns are spotted with white dots and weight between 1.5 and 2.5 kg. Their coats become grayish and they lose their spots by their first winter. Most whitetail deer (particularly males) mate in the second year, although some females occasionally mate as young as seven months. The only time that they can mate is October to December and gestation is approximately 6 and a half months. Does have two babies per litter (occasionally 3 or 4) are born in subsequent years. Fawns are able to walk at birth and nibble on vegetation only a few days later.


Author: Natalie G.

Published: 02/2009




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