White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginiaus)

White-tailed Deer on Alert 

The White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginiaus)is in the Deer Family ( Cervidae) and order Artiodactyla, Even-toed Hoofed Mammals. Mount Desert Island has many herds of White-tailed Deer. This animal is reddish-brown in warmer times of the year to grayish-brown as the weather turns cold. The White-tailed deer has a white belly, white throat, white noseband and white eye rings. The insides of the ears and under part of the tail are also white. The top of the tail is brown with white edges. Fawns are spotted. The male White-tailed Deer can weigh as much as 300 pounds (135 kilograms) and the female can weigh as much as 250 pounds (113 kilograms). The height at the shoulder of an adult is three to three and one half feet (0.9 to 1.1 meters). The length of an adult can be from 4.5 to 6.25 feet (1.3 to 2 meters). The males grow antlers and some females may also grow antlers. The main beam of the antlers with branched tines leans forward with un-branched tines behind. The antler spread can be up to three feet (0.9 meters).

White-tailed Deer in Winter

White-tailed deer are generally nocturnal but may be seen foraging during the day. They eat vegetation but lack upper incisors to cut the vegetation cleanly. Ragged vegetation usually indicates that White-tailed Deer have been in the area. The scat is small pellets of more substantial masses if the food is substantial. The male deer, the buck, marks his territory by rubbing his antlers on the trunk of a tree. In early morning, the deer find a place giving them cover and rest. They have no particular rest area.

White-tailed Deer Fawn

The female deer, or doe, will give birth to one to three fawns depending upon the availability of food and her age. Generally, the older deer that have given birth before will have the twins or triplets. The gestation period is seven months. The picture above shows a White-tailed Deer fawn gnawing on spruce needles.

Pair of Deer

During the spring, summer and fall, the White-tailed Deer form into separate male and female herds. Note that the two deer in the photograph above are females. Come winter, the herds are reformed into mixed sex herds, a process called yard up. The herds on Mount Desert Island are not very large, usually not more than a half dozen individuals.

When alarmed, the White-tailed Deer will raise the tail exposing the white part of the tail warning other deer that danger is near. They may also snort and stamp their hooves to warn others of danger. To escape danger, they may race to the nearest cover but usually do not travel far. They can run up to 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour) and are also excellent swimmers. Unfortunately, they are difficult to see at night and may freeze in the headlights of oncoming vehicles. Hitting a deer can cause significant damage to a vehicle and could result in human fatalities if the deer comes through the windshield of a vehicle. Drivers must be on the alert for deer in the roadways of Mount Desert Island particularly at night. Slowdown and stop until the deer have passed. Normally, deer will run away when people approach them. However, they may stand and fight if cornered or to defend a fawn. People have been killed by deer. Do not approach them. They can be dangerous.


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