White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

A Whitetail buck in velvet looks toward the camera. Another deer is behind him out of focus.
Whitetail deer are a common sight along the 3.5 mile Canyons trail loop.

NPS/ Quentin Bucker

 
a young whitetail buck is caught on trail camera.
White-tailed Deer thrive in the open country of a recent burn, especially once the new grass starts to grow.  This makes Jewel Cave National Monument a very attractive place for deer to live.

NPS/ SNP


White-tailed Deer
Odocoileus virginianus


  • Whitetails are by far the most common deer species in north America, ranging from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to Central America and all the way down into the Florida Keys.
  • Whitetails get their name from their iconic, large and broad white tail. When alarmed or spooked, the tail will be hoisted up while the deer runs away in an act called “flagging”.




Size and Description
  • Typical of deer species, Bucks are bigger than does. A mature buck may weigh from 200-300 lbs. and stand 2.5-3 feet tall at the shoulder, while does will weigh from 90-200 lbs.
  • Coloration is the same in bucks and does, white bellies and rumps, a white patch on their throats, white rings around their eyes and white ring around their muzzle.
  • Their bodies are always brown, however, in summer their coats are more reddish-brown vs in winter when their coats are more of a grayish brown.
Behavior
  • White-tailed Deer are semi gregarious animals. Does will spend time in a small herd, often with a few other does and their fawns and it is not uncommon to find bachelor groups of bucks together outside of the rut.
  • During their rut, bucks will compete for dominance and breeding rights by locking antlers and fighting until one buck submits.
  • It is common for does to give birth to twin fawns. This is a sign of a doe in very good health, just as a buck with large antlers is a sign of being in good health.
 
A whitetail fawn stands in front of rocky terrain
In the springtime, tiny white-tailed deer fawns are often found tucked away along the Canyons Trail loop. If you encounter a baby deer by itself, do not approach it! It's mother is off foraging and will return soon.

NPS/SNP

Diet
  • Whitetails are more selective eaters than their cousins, the mule deer.
  • Whitetails will select the most nutritious plants and plant parts to eat and are widely known to utilize agricultural fields such as corn, soybeans, cotton, and alfalfa.
  • Natural forage for whitetails includes acorns, mushrooms, grasses, fruits and various broad-leaved plants.

Interactions with other animals
  • Mountain lions rely heavily on robust populations of whitetails to survive. Coyotes and bobcats are major predators of whitetail fawns.
  • Human hunters harvest nearly 6 million whitetails annually in the United States.


Last updated: August 21, 2020

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Custer , SD 57730

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