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Animal Information

White-tailed Deer Eastern Woodlands

White-tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus

Biome: Eastern Woodlands

Classification: Mammals

Biography: During the past century, logging and farming caused drastic changes in the forests. This created ideal habitat for the white-tailed deer, now the most common large mammal of the eastern woodlands. Along the edge where the forest meets the field, a deer has easy access to a variety of food sources and to the safe cover of the forest. The whitetail is an adaptable browser, feeding on green plants in spring and summer, and surviving on twigs, buds, and acorns in the fall and winter. Their distinctive white undertail lifts and flashes when alarmed, and serves as a danger signal to other deer in the area. In summer, the coat is comprised of short, fine reddish hair. In winter, the fur is coarser and is grayish brown. Winter hairs are hollow for insulation. The hairs grow very thickly, and for extra warmth, they can stand on end to trap air between them. The deer's senses are keen. Even when they appear to be resting, calmly chewing their cud, their ears may be turning and twisting, scanning the area for the slightest sound.

In the late winter of every year, the male deer loses his antlers. A new set of antlers will begin growing very soon and will continue to grow until the full size is reached in late summer. The age of a deer can't be determined by the size of the antlers. Antler size depends on the animal's health, its age, and most importantly, on the quality of its diet. Antlers are shed yearly. In contrast, horns such as the bison's, are permanent.

White-tailed deer have the most extensive range of all the North American deer species. They can be found from southern Canada, through most of the continental United States, and into Central America. In parts of the west, their range may overlap with the larger mule deer, though hybrids between the two species are rarely seen. Their natural predators, including wolves, mountain lions, and bobcats, have been much reduced over the past century. Regulated hunting and highway accidents, are now their means of population control.

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