The whitetail deer or Virginia deer is native to the eastern UnitedStates. Its range, however, extends over most of the United States,southern Canada, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Thewhitetail deer is known for its characteristic long tail, which is whiteunderneath. The whitetail deer is one of the largest American deer.The buck, on average, reaches about 6 feet in length and 3 to 4 feet in heightat the shoulders. It weighs from 100 to 300 pounds or more. InAmerica today, the whitetail deer is one of the most popular big-game animalshunted. Belonging to the family Cervidae, it is classified as Odocoileusvirginianus.

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History

The whitetail deer is believed to have migrated to the Unites Statesapproximately 4 million years ago. Over time, the deer population hasfluctuated. Regardless of declines in its population, with new technologyand innovations the whitetail has become one of the most widespread deer in theworld today. North American"s whitetail population is estimated at 20 to 25million deer.

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Anatomy

Whitetail deer are ruminant (cud-chewing)animals with four chambered stomachs.When deer feed, they tongue food to the back of their mouths and chew justenough to swallow. After a deer fills its paunch, it lies down to chew itscud. After chewing its cud a while, the deer reswallows the food and itpasses in to the second portion of the stomach. After about 16 hours foodpasses to the third chamber. The fourth chamber produces acid tobreak down the food pieces for easier absorption of the ingredients. Adeer urinates and defecates on average of about 13 times a day.

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Antlersare a buck"s crowning glory. They are composed of bone. It is thefastest growing tissue, growing and average of 1 to 2 inches per week in thespring and summer. Velvet covers growing antlers. The velvetcontains blood vessels and nerve ending making them sensitive to thetouch. Once antlers reach full growth and mineralize in late summer.After the breeding season a new set of antlers begin to grow.

Deersee best at night. The can see some 310 degrees due to their eyes beingset to the side of their head. Their vision is not acute though. Insunlight, a deer"s pupils contract into narrow bands. This letsa buck or doe focus across a wide swath of horizon. Deer do not have manyof the additional visionary characteristics that humans take for granted.Deer see at a lower resolution which enables usto hide in our camouflage.

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The whitetail has a sense of hearing that is crucial. The deer can easilypick up a faint sound and in a split-second determine the approximate distanceto the noise. The deer"s ears contain many complex muscles that movefreely. The ears rotate in all directions to home in sounds.

The main purposes of a deer"s coat are camouflage and thermoregulatoin.The process of molting is growing a different coat in summer and winter.No matter the season, deer sport a white throat patch. A fawn is born withreddish brown coat speckled with white spots. This allows a little deer toblend with its surroundings. Summer coats are thin, helping deer cope withthe heat., By September, the reddish coat begins to fade to gray andthicken to help keep the deer warm in cold weather and snow. During therut, some bucks develop dark facial hair.

The life expectancy is 15 t0 20 years, but most only live from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2because of predators, hunters, disease, and being hit by cars. During thefirst 14 years of a doe"s life, she may have up to 31 fawns--one her first yearsof maturity and two every year after that.

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Habitat and Food

Deer inhabit a small home range of about 1 square mile. In northernstates, deer have larger home ranges. Deer adapt very easily.The whitetail deer is a woodland animal, but it isnot found in the deep, unbroken forest. It favors the sunny glades whereit can feed on leaves, buds, and twigs of woody bushes, as well asgrass.

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Hyperlinks

TheWhite-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer Whitetails on the Web

NMNH Department of Systematic Biology, Division of Mammals - Mammal Species of the World Home Page