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The white tailed deer is a majestic animal, prominently found in Canada, North America, and South America. Their name is synonymous with resilience and wilderness, their adaptability is a subject of intrigue to wildlife enthusiasts. Here are 20 unique facts about the white tailed deer.
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Complex Social Structure
White tailed deers follow a complex social structure. They are found in small family groups, usually led by a doe. The family of doe (female deer), buck (male deer), and fawns (kids) are always together. Sometimes, out of the mating season, the bucks may step outside the family unit to form bachelor groups to move about.
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Fierce Rut Seasons
The mating season, known as ‘rut’, is absolutely fierce. ‘Rut’ means ‘to roar’, and that is what they do. Come mating season in the fall, and you will see the white tailed deers fiercely competing for mates and establishing physical dominance through physical displays and aggressive vocal talent.
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The white tailed bucks are polygamous in nature. They mate with multiple female deers, around 6 to 8, in every mating season. The doe usually has a single mate, and sometimes more than one. If the doe does not conceive, it goes back into estrous (heat) cycle after 28 days to mate again.
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A doe gives birth to fawn/s once a year. Their gestation period is 200 days. A first time mother usually gives birth to one fawn, and can give birth to two or three fawns in the next mating cycles. The birthing period is around May and June.
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Display of Might
The antlers of the white tailed deer become a weapon of choice for the mating season. The antlers are shed annually. The growing and shedding period is from spring to winter. Once shed, the antlers are not cast aside. They use them to establish physical dominance during the breeding season.
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Deers are usually herbivores. They thrive on forest vegetation such as nuts, fruits, grasses, twigs, and leaves. This is sufficient to them and their digestion system is attuned to digest vegetation only. However, sometimes the deers are known to consume meat such as birds and rodents for survival, usually due to extreme environmental conditions and lack of food.
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The white tailed deers found prominence in various folklore due to their adaptive nature. They are able to thrive in various kinds of habitats, from open plains to dense forests. This is the reason you can see them spread widely throughout the Americas and Canada. Their adaptability makes them intriguing to wildlife researchers.
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Scent Territory Marking
The white tailed deers communicate with each other and mark their territories using scent. The scent glands are located on their forehead, legs, and around their eyes. To humans, the scent smells musky and dry. White tailed deers use the scents to determine the reproductive status and physical condition of the deer, their identity, and position of dominance in the deer society.
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Swimming Long Distances
White tailed deers are expert swimmers. They can swim long distances with speed and agility, as they often do for crossing lakes and rivers during seasonal migration. They also escape into the water to protect themselves from predators or to search for food when required.
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White tailed deers groom each other, like other mammals. The dominant deer initiates the grooming process. They use teeth and tongue to groom each other and themselves. It helps them to remove debris and parasites from the body. Grooming is also a bonding exercise, and helps to keep their coat’s clean and healthy.
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Nature has bestowed animals with the power of camouflaging to escape predators. The white tailed deer has a reddish-brown coat. During summer, the coat becomes speckled with white spots, as additional camouflage. They use their coats to escape predators like mountain lions and coyotes in densely forested environments.
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White tailed deers are territorial in nature. The bucks are aggressive in marking their territories during the breeding season. They defend their territories equally aggressively. The bucks use the scent glands to detect competition, and will engage in a confrontation if competing bucks come into their territories to assert their dominance.
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Some species of the white tailed deer undertake seasonal migration in search of better living habitat and food. They travel in the summers and winters for this search, and many often lose their lives during the process, either by being hunted and by being killed by other carnivore animals.
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In the food pyramid structure, one animal is always preyed upon by someone higher up in the food chain. The white tailed deers do fall victims to their natural predators. Large carnivores like bears, cougars, mountain lions, and wolves prey on the white tailed deer. Highest predatory rate is seen among young deers and fawns.
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Hunted for Population Control
We humans hunt for the white tailed deer to control their population. Overpopulation of the white tailed deer can escalate conflict between humans and the wildlife and cause degradation of their habitat. Controlled hunting is in place in many areas. Other methods for population control include surgical sterilization.
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Keen Sensory Abilities
We read about their powerful sensory ability to smell. The white tailed deers also have a heightened sense of sight and hearing, which helps them to protect against predators and also to navigate their surroundings. The deers can listen to sounds that we humans cannot easily hear and they have superior vision to see in low light surroundings.
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The white tailed deers have been roaming on Earth for the past 5 million years. They have interacted with humans in various stages of our evolution. It is no wonder that they are culturally significant to many indigenous native American populations. They are prominently featured in our history, mythology, folklore, and art.
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Spreads Communicable Diseases
The white tailed deer can spread communicable diseases to humans and other animals. Diseases they are known to transmit to humans are the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and the Lyme disease. Diseases are transmitted through bodily fluids and ticks, and thus they pose a considerable public health risk.
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The white tailed deers can jump as high as 8 feet to cross obstacles in its path. They are lightweight with good body balance, which helps them to soar high in the air. Horizontally, they can cross a distance of 30 feet (woah!) in a single bound. They truly are exceptional jumpers!
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The white tailed deer is a nocturnal (crepuscular) animal. They are nocturnal because it is the time when their predators are primarily active. Deers are usually active around dawn and dusk. This does not mean they sleep the entire day; they sleep around noon, and move about later. They are also nocturnal in areas with high human activity.