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Whitetail Deer

Common Name: Whitetail Deer.

Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus.

What to look for?  The Whitetail deer is brown in the summer. Its coat turns grayish brown, which they can fluff up to help hold air to help with insulation. in winter. This change in color happens very quickly, usually in 1 or 2 weeks. A Whitetail deer has white on its throat, around its eyes and nose, on its stomach and on the underside of its tail. Male deer – bucks - are easily identified in the summer and fall by their prominent set of antlers. Antlers are grown annually and fall off in the winter. Female deer are called does. Young deer – fawns - wear a reddish-brown coat with white spots that helps them blend in with the woodlands (See photo in right column).

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? You may sight a Whitetail Deer more typically in the Summer through Winter and either in morning or late afternoon. Generally, you will find an adult and several younger deer. You may find them feeding by your wild bird feeder (see photo). On February 23rd, a herd of sixteen (16) deer were sighted crossing the eastern end of the west Carillon Stonegate Pond. And the first Fawn of 2019 (see video) appeared on July 2nd.

How big are they? Whitetail deer are the smallest members of the North American deer family. Adults are about 6 feet in total length, and 39 in in shoulder height. Their average weights: adult male - 203 lb. and adult female - 155 lb.

How else do they behave? Whitetail deer are tri-athletes! They run! They jump! And they swim! And they excel at all of these endeavors. They use speed and agility to outrun predators, sprinting up to 30 miles per hour. They can leap as high as 10 feet and as far as 30 feet in a “Superman-like” single bound. Whitetail deer can swim at speeds of up to 13 miles per hour – Michael Phelps can swim at 6 mph.

What’s for dinner? Whitetail deer are herbivores. They will leisurely graze on most available plant foods. Their specialized stomachs allow them to digest a varied diet, including leaves, twigs, fruits and nuts, grass, corn, alfalfa, and even lichens and other fungi. While occasionally venturing out in the daylight hours, Whitetail deer are primarily nocturnal or “crepuscular”, browsing mainly at dawn and dusk. The eat green plants in the spring and summer; in the fall, they eat corn, acorns and other nuts; and in the winter, they survive on the buds and twigs of woody plants.

Where do they take up residence? Whitetail deer can be found across most of the United States (except for the Southwest, Alaska and Hawaii) and in southern Canada. A deer's home range is usually less than one square mile. The typical family group is a mother and her fawns. In the heat of summer, they typically inhabit fields and meadows; and during the winter, they generally keep to forests. Whitetail deer mate between November and February. The female gives birth to one to three fawns about six months after mating. Fawns are reddish-brown at birth with white spots that help camouflage them.

When and where do they breed and nest? The breeding season - called the "rut" - usually occurs from October through mid-December. White-tailed deer are called “short-day” breeders — breeding occurs in the fall when day length is declining. The shortening of day length triggers the breeding season. Because white-tailed deer are polygamous, one dominant buck can breed numerous does. The female gives birth to one to three fawns about six months after mating. Newborn spotted fawns remain hidden and solitary for about three weeks. The doe visits her young several times per day in order to nurse and groom the offspring. When the fawn is strong enough to run with the doe, it will follow its mother and begin to graze on vegetation. Fawns can live independently of their mother at about two months old.

Where do they migrate? Whitetail deer do not migrate. However, they do have “home ranges” and “core areas”. Home ranges are where Whitetail Deer travel for food and water and are generally less than one (2) square mile. Home ranges may change from year to year. Core areas are the portion of the home range where more than 50 percent of their time is spent. Core areas are all about security and comfort.

What is their conservation status? The whitetail is the most abundant and most widely seen land mammal in the United States. According to the Wildlife Management Institute, the United States currently supports between 12.5 and 14 million whitetail deer. While they live in every state on the U.S. mainland, California, Nevada, and Utah have extremely low populations. Sometimes, populations get too large and must be culled down.

Do they make any interesting sounds? Whitetail deer often snort or whistle, when disturbed. When fawns or young doe are captured by predators, they make a groaning or bleating sound to warn of danger. A Whitetail doe gives a low grunt to communicate with her baby and fawns often respond with a mew like sound.

Interesting Facts About Whitetail Deer:

  • "Whitetail" refers to the white underside of the deer's tail, which it displays and wags when it senses danger.

  • Illinois designated white-tailed deer as the official state animal in 1980 after winning the vote of the schoolchildren of Illinois (state animal in eight other states)

  • Whitetail deer fawns are normally born sometime between late April and early May.

  • A Whitetail deer will live to  5 – 10 years in the wild.

  • A whitetail deer's eyes are on the sides of its head, giving it 310 degrees of vision without rotating its head

  • They can rotate their ears in any direction without moving their heads

  • They can detect smells hundreds of yards away (5 miles if it is your teenage grandson’s deodorant), licking the nose to increase its sensitivity.

For more information on Whitetail Deer and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit National Geographic, American Expedition, Nature Mapping Foundation and NatureWorks.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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