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MAMMALS » LARGE
White-tailed Deer (Hunted)

White-tailed Deer (Hunted)
Odocoileus virginianus

The White-tailed Deer, easily one of the most recognizable mammals, is Tennessee's most popular big game animal and occurs state-wide. Although deer are plentiful and widespread today, they were nearly extirpated during the early 20th century due to over-harvesting for food and hides. Their numbers have rebounded dramatically in the state through restoration efforts and effective game laws.

Description
: A large mammal with long legs, feet divided into 2 hoofed toes, moderately long tail, and large ears and eyes. Antlers, or bony outgrowths which usually only occur in males, arise out of the top of the head and are shed annually. The body color is tan to reddish-brown during the warmer months turning to a grayish-brown in the winter. White occurs on the belly and throat, under the tail, inside the legs, inside the ears, around the eyes, and on a white band across the nose. Black markings occur on each side of the muzzle. Does (females) are smaller than bucks (males). Fawns (young) are spotted.
Length: 54 - 78 inches
Tail: 6 - 11.5 inches
Ears: 5.5 - 9 inches
Weight: 100 - 300 pounds

Similar Species:
Elk is larger and has a pale rump patch.

Habitat
: Occurs in a variety of habitats, but generally prefers wooded areas during the day. They also use crop fields, pastures, shrubby areas, thickets, field edges, yards, and orchards.

Diet:
Deer browse mainly on vegetation including forbs; grasses; and leaves, twigs, acorns, and fruits of trees and shrubs. They readily eat crops such as corn and clover.

Breeding information:
During the rutting, or mating, season, bucks will fight each other using their antlers. The peak of the rutting season is in November, but does can breed between September and February. Gestation lasts 6½ to 7 months resulting in 1-3 (usually 2) fawns. The spotted newborn fawns are able to walk when they are born, but lay low for several weeks before following the mother to eat vegetation.

Status in Tennessee:
White-tailed Deer are abundant in many areas around the state, so there are no conservation concerns. In some areas where deer numbers are too high, they may over browse forest vegetation and pose a risk to motorists from collisions with vehicles.

Fun Facts
:

  • When alarmed deer raise their tails, showing a bright flash of white, to communicate danger to fawns and other deer as they bound away. They will also snort and stamp their feet.
  • A deer's age is best determined by the wear and replacement of its teeth. The number of points and antler size in bucks is not a reliable way to age them.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Grass fields, crop fields, yards, edges of fields, and pretty much anywhere in the state.

For more information:

Sources:
Schwartz, C.W. and E.R. Schwartz. 2001. The Wild Mammals of Missouri, 2nd Edition. University of Missouri Press and Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia, MO.