Our Wild Neighbors

White-Tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus

A regular visitor

Image of a Whitetail Deer, standing on all fours, shown in profile facing right.

Description of the animal

  • Legs are long and slender.
  • Fur is short with various shades of colour.
  • Fluffy tail.
  • The back, head, and outer parts of the legs are a bit reddish in the summer and rather greyish in the winter; elsewhere the fur is white.
  • Fawn's coat is spotted; this acts as an effective camouflage against predators.
  • Antlers: after the first year the males have antlers. They are covered with skin called “velvet” that is full of blood vessels. The antlers grow again each year. The number of branches, also called “points,” does not indicate the age of the animal, but depends on its genetics and diet.

Habitat and needs

  • White-tailed deer live in the hardwood forests and uncultivated fields of North America during the summer.
  • They live in coniferous forests during the winter. Their winter quarters are called “deer yards.” Deer herds make trails giving them access to food.
  • They rely chiefly on their sense of smell to perceive danger, although their eyesight is good and their hearing is excellent.
  • They can leap as high as two metres, and can land 10 metres away. The deer is a fast runner and a superb jumper.
  • During the breeding season, at the end of November, males utter a variety of cries, and occasionally engage in ritual combats with their rivals when they are searching for females to breed.
  • Deer are fine swimmers, and can cover distances of several kilometres in the water.

Relationship

  • The white-tailed deer is the most common and most widely distributed of all large animals in North America. In Canada, it is usually simply called a “deer.”
  • Occasionally deer cause damage to crops, fruit trees, and ornamental plants. They can even threaten forest vegetation.
  • Deer are attracted to city and village parks. They find plenty of food, few predators—and no hunters!

Living with them

  • Hunting helps control the deer population, as long as the regulations in force are respected.
  • If you find a fawn, you must not touch it! The doe hasn't abandoned its fawn, but may do so if she smells a human odour.
  • Never let dogs wander in the forest, especially in the spring, when the fawns are most vulnerable.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen