White-Tailed Deer

White-tailed buck in a meadow
White-Tailed Buck

NPS photo

White-tailed deer can be found throughout Prince William Forest Park. They are one of the more shy members of the deer family and can be identified by white fur that is found on the underside of their tail. They wag their tail from side to side when they are nervous or fleeing. White-tailed deer are extremely swift and can run through thick forests at speeds of 30 mph. Their coats are reddish in the summer months, and in the winter their fur turns grayer, helping them blend in during the more colorless winter months.

The male deer, or buck, grows a new set of antlers every spring. Their antlers have a velvet coating on them which protects it during growth. The deer will rub the velvet off by rubbing their antlers on trees. The males use their antlers to fight each other during the fall mating season. By late winter, their antlers fall off, only to be replaced by a new set of antlers the following spring.

All members of the deer family, such as, elk and moose, lose their antlers every year. Antlers are a bone and not a horn. Animals that have horns, such as goats, cattle and bison, never lose them and they do not form branches. In fact, antlers are one of the fastest growing tissues in the animal kingdom, as they may grow up to ½ an inch each day. This has led scientists to study the growth rate of antlers, to unlock the mysteries of fast growing cancer cells.

Last updated: February 23, 2019

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