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The White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), also known as the Virginia Deer, is a common woodland deer that finds its home everywhere from southern Canada to South America. This resourceful deer has adapted well to many challenges, even repopulating its species.

HISTORY

The white-tailed deer has been known to exist for over 20 million years. Through evolution, some physical characteristics have changed. Less than 1 million years ago, the white-tailed deer was a five toed mammal. They have since evolved into a sleek two toed animal with two unusable dewclaws several inches above the main toes. The fifth toe, which would correspond to the thumb of a person's hand, disappeared over time, most likely from non-use.

ORIGIN OF NAME

This deer gets his name from the white underside of its tail, which is white. When the deer is frightened or running, it will hold its tail high, much like a signaling flag.

POPULATION

The white-tailed deer is by far the most common deer inhabiting North America. Today's estimated population exceeds 25 million on the North American continent alone. More than 30 different subspecies of white-tailed deer exist in North America and an additional 10 subspecies live in South America.

The population of the white-tailed deer reduced greatly in the United States due to unrestricted hunting in the mid
20th century. However, due to game management measures, breeding farms, and resourceful protection measures taken by the species itself, the population has since been restored.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS


ANTLERS

Almost all deer have one main characteristic in common: the formation of antlers. Whitetail antlers distinguish this species from others in the deer family by the way that this bone develops. All points of the white-tailed deer antler protrude off one main bone on each side of the head. Most often, the antler begins growing in a backward motion and then reverses its direction, sweeping forward as the deer ages.

TEETH

Adult whitetails have 32 teeth, made up of 12 molars, 12 premolars, 6 incisors and 2 canines. There are no front teeth in the upper jaw. A tough pad that works to aid incisors in securing food exists in their place.

SIZE

A mature male deer stands at about 3 1/2 feet at the shoulder. White-tailed deer that live in North America are generally larger than their cousins who exist in the South. A full grown deer weighs between 300-500 pounds.

STOMACH

The white-tailed deer is a ruminant, meaning it possesses a four chambered stomach. The four individual portions of the stomach are known as the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. Deer generally feed quickly and store food first in the rumen. Quick feeding allows the deer to gather nutrients, but not expose themselves to danger. After consuming food, deer retreat into a safe, hidden resting position to finish the digestion process. Food that was stored in the rumen regurgitates itself up in a partially digested form, and is then rechewed before it enters the other three stomach chambers. This process of "cud chewing" is the same that milk cows perform.

SENSES

The white-tailed deer has a particularly keen sense of eyesight. With eyes located at the sides of their head, this animal has excellent peripheral vision that allows them to detect movement from great distances.

The white-tailed deer also uses its strong hearing and smelling abilities to track danger from afar. Air currents bring scents of alarm long before the deer's eyes or ears are able to detect danger, allowing this quick thinking animal a means of escape.

STRENGTH

The white-tailed deer is a fast, using it's ability to travel up to speeds of 35 mph to escape from predators. This deer is common prey for wolves, bear and eagles, not to mention hunters and automobiles. The white-tailed deer is able to move in a galloping or bounding motion. They also trot, walk and are able to crawl under obstacles to remove themselves from harm's way.

FEEDING

The white-tailed deer consume mostly plants. An adult deer will devour 10 pounds of plant matter in a single day during warm months. In winter, when food resources are scarce, the white-tailed deer whatever they find, many times, consuming less than 1-2 pounds of food a day. The most common food sources of the white-tailed deer include corn, soybeans, alfalfa, blueberries, grasses, oak buds, maple buds and sunflower.

REPRODUCTION

Most mature does give birth to twins in early the spring. The young deer double in size within the first two weeks of life, and stay near the mother for up to one year. A normal pregnancy lasts 200 days.