White-tailed Deer

White-tailed deer grazing in sagebrush.
White-tailed deer grazing in sagebrush

NPS / Neal Herbert

 

Although the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the most common deer species throughout North America, it has never been abundant in Yellowstone. This may be due to habitat and elevation constraints on the northern range or competition from other ungulates that are better suited to park habitat.

White-tailed deer and mule deer are differentiated by their antler shape, and tail size and appearance.

Number in Yellowstone

Scarce, not monitored.

Where to See

Along streams and rivers in the northern range.

Size and Behavior

  • Adults 150–250 pounds; 31⁄2 feet at the shoulder.
  • Summer coat: red-brown; winter coat: gray-brown; throat and inside ears with whitish patches; belly, inner thighs, and underside of tail white.
  • Waves tail like a white flag when fleeing.
  • Males grow antlers from May until August; shed them in early to late spring.
  • Mating season (rut) peaks in November; fawns born usually in late May or June.
  • Eats shrubs, forbs, grasses; conifers in spring.
  • Predators include wolves, coyotes, cougars, and bears.
 
A wolf standing on a snowy bank near brown grass howls

Mammals

Home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states.

A mule deer buck in the springtime.

Mule Deer

Also called blacktail deer, they are an exclusively western species.

 

Resources

Barmore, W.J. 2003. Ecology of ungulates and their winter range in northern Yellowstone National Park: Research and synthesis, 1962–1970. Mammoth Hot Springs, WY: National Park Service, Yellowstone Center for Resources.

Compton, B.B., R.J. Mackie, and G.L. Dusek. 1988. Factors influencing distribution of white-tailed deer in riparian habitats. Journal of Wildlife Management 52(3):544–548.

Council, National Research. 2002. Ecological Dynamics on Yellowstone’s Northern Range. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Frank, D.A. 1998. Ungulate regulation of ecosystem pro- cesses in Yellowstone National Park: Direct and feedback effects. Wildlife Society Bulletin 26(3):410–418.

Hill, R.R. 1956. Forage, food habits, and range manage- ment of the mule deer. In W. P. Taylor, ed., The deer of North America: The white-tailed, mule and black-tailed deer, genus Odocoileus, their history and management, 393–414. Harrisburg, PA and Washington, DC: The Stackpole Co. and Wildlife Management Institute.

Houston, D.B. 1982. The northern Yellowstone elk: Ecology and management. New York: Macmillian Publishing Co.

Mackie, R.J., D.F. Pac, K.L. Hamlin, and G.L. Dusek. 1998. Ecology and management of mule deer and white-tailed deer in Montana. Helena, MT: Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Singer, F.J. and J.E. Norland. 1994. Niche relationships within a guild of ungulate species in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, following release from artificial controls. Canadian Journal of Zoology 72:8.

Williams, E.S., M.W. Miller, T.J. Kreeger, R.H. Kahn, and E.T. Thorne. 2002. Chronic wasting disease of deer and elk: A review with recommendations for management. Journal of Wildlife Management 66(3):551–563.

Last updated: August 25, 2017

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