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female white-tailed deer

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White-tailed Deer
Male (Buck/Stag)
Female (Doe), Ontario
Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Capreolinae
Genus: Odocoileus
Species: O. virginianus
Binomial name
Odocoileus virginianus

Zimmermann, 1780

Subspecies

38, see text

Male white-tailed deerThe white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), also known as the Virginia deer, or simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States (all but five of the states), Canada, Mexico, Central America, and in South America as far south as Peru. It has also been introduced to New Zealand and some countries in Europe, such as Finland and the Czech Republic.

The species is most common east of the Rocky Mountains, and is absent from much of the western United States, including Nevada, Utah, California, Hawaii, and Alaska (though its close relatives, the mule deer and black-tailed deer Odocoileus hemionus, can be found there). It does, however, survive in aspen parklands and deciduous river bottomlands within the central and northern Great Plains, and in mixed deciduous riparian corridors, river valley bottomlands, and lower foothills of the northern Rocky Mountain regions from Wyoming to southeastern British Columbia. The conversion of land adjacent to the northern Rockies into agriculture use and partial clear-cutting of coniferous trees (resulting in widespread deciduous vegetation) has been favorable to the white-tailed deer and has pushed its distribution to as far north as Prince George, British Columbia. Populations of deer around the Great Lakes have also expanded their range northwards, due to conversion of land to agricultural uses favoring more deciduous vegetation, and local caribou and moose populations. The westernmost population of the species, known as the Columbian white-tailed deer, once was widespread in the mixed forests along the Willamette and Cowlitz River valleys of western Oregon and southwestern Washington, but today its numbers have been considerably reduced, and it is classified as near-threatened. The white-tailed deer is well-suited for its environment. Fossil records indicate that its basic structure has not changed in four million years.

TaxonomyEdit

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Fawn waving its white tailUntil recently, some taxonomists have attempted to separate white-tailed deer into a host of subspecies, based largely in morphological differences. Genetic studies, however, suggest that there are fewer subspecies within the animal's range as compared to the 30 to 40 subspecies that some scientists described in the last century. The Florida Key deer, O. virginianus clavium, and the Columbian white-tailed deer, O. virginianus leucurus, are both listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The dominant subspecies across the deers' range is the Virginia white-tail, O. virginianus virginianus which is also the type species for the Odocoileus genus. The White-tailed deer species has tremendous genetic variation and is adaptable to several environments. Several local deer populations, especially in the Southern States, are descended from white-tailed deer transplanted from various localities east of the Continental Divide. Some of these deer may have been from as far north as the Great Lakes region to as far west as Texas, yet are also quite at home in the Appalachian and Piedmont regions of the south. These deer over time have intermixed with the local indigenous deer (virginianus and/or macrourus) populations.

Central and South America have a complex number of white-tailed deer subspecies that range from southern Mexico as far south as Peru. This list of subspecies of deer is more exhaustive than the list of North American subspecies and the number of subspecies is also questionable. However, the white-tailed deer populations in these areas are difficult to study due to over-hunting many parts and lack of protection. Some areas no longer carry deer, so it is difficult to assess the genetic difference of these animals. Central American white-tailed deer prefer tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests, seasonal mixed deciduous forests, savanna, and adjacent wetland habitats over dense tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. South American subspecies of white-tailed deer live in two types of environments. The first type, similar to the Central American deer, consists of savannas, dry deciduous forests, and riparian corridors that cover much of Venezuela and eastern Colombia. The other type is the higher elevation mountain grassland/mixed forest ecozones in the Andes Mountains, from Venezuela to Peru. The Andean white-tailed deer seem to retain gray coats due to the colder weather at high altitudes, whereas the lowland savanna forms retain the reddish brown coats. South American white-tailed deer, like those in Central America, also generally avoid dense moist broadleaf forests.Section heading

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[edit] DescriptionEdit

White-tailed deer during late winterThe deer's coat is a reddish-brown in the spring and summer and turns to a grey-brown throughout the fall and winter. The deer can be recognized by the characteristic white underside to its tail, which it shows as a signal of alarm by raising the tail during escape.

The North American male deer (also known as a buck) usually weighs from 130 to 300 pounds (60 to 130 kg) but, in rare cases, bucks in excess of 375 pounds (159 kg) have been recorded. The record-sized White-tailed Deer weighed just over 500 pounds and was found in Minnesota.[4] The female (doe) usually weighs from 90 to 200 pounds (40 to 90 kg). Length ranges from 62 to 87 inches (160 to 220 cm), including the tail, and the shoulder height is 32 to 40 inches (80 to 100 cm).[5] White-tailed deer from the tropics tend to be much smaller than temperate populations, averaging 77–110 pounds (35–50 kg).[6] Female with characteristic tail coloringMales re-grow their antlers every year. About 1 in 10,000 females also have antlers, although this is usually associated with hermaphroditism.[7] Bucks without branching antlers are often termed "spiked bucks". The spikes can be quite long or very short. Research in Texas has shown that the length and branching of antlers is genetic and can be influenced by diet. Healthy deer in some areas that are well fed can have eight point branching antlers as yearlings (one and a half years old).[8] The number of points, the length or thickness of the antlers are a general indication of age but cannot be relied upon for positive aging. A better indication of age is the length of the snout and the color of the coat, with older deer tending to have longer snouts and grayer coats. Many say that deer that have spiked antlers should be culled from the population as they are not as large or as hardy as bucks with branching antlers, and never will be, but this is only true in areas where the deer's complete nutritional needs are met, which is only a small percentage of their range.[9] Spike deer are different from "button bucks" or "nubbin' bucks", that are male fawns and are generally about six to nine months of age during their first winter. They have skin covered nobs on their heads. They can have bony protrusions up to a half inch in length, but that is very rare, and they are not the same as spikes.

Antlers begin to grow in late spring, covered with a highly vascularised tissue known as velvet. Bucks either have a typical or non-typical antler arrangement. Typical antlers are symmetrical and the points grow straight up off the main beam. Non-typical antlers are asymmetrical and the points may project at any angle from the main beam. These descriptions are not the only limitations for typical and a typical antler arrangement. The Boone and Crockett or Pope & Young scoring systems also define relative degrees of typicality and atypicality by procedures to measure what proportion of the antlers are asymmetrical. Therefore, bucks with only slight asymmetry will often be scored as "typical". A buck's inside spread can be anywhere from 3–25 in (8–64 cm). Bucks shed their antlers when all females have been bred, from late December to February.

There is a population of white-tailed deer in the state of New York that is entirely white (except for areas like their noses and toes) - not albino - in color. The former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, New York, has the largest known concentration of white deer. Strong conservation efforts have allowed white deer to thrive within the confines of the depot.

The white-tailed deer is a ruminant, which means it has a four-chambered stomach. Each chamber has a different and specific function that allows the deer to quickly eat a variety of different food, digesting it at a later time in a safe area of cover. The Whitetail stomach hosts a complex set of bacteria that change as the deer's diet changes through the seasons. If the bacteria necessary for digestion of a particular food (e.g. hay) are absent it will not be digested.[10]

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