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Deer: Odocoileus virginianus

Appearance:

The common name refers to the tail; it is brown above and white below.  White-tailed deer vary in size depending on the habitat in which they occur. Adult male deer in Florida average 115 pounds while the smaller females average 90 pounds.  The Key deer subspecies (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) is notably smaller, averaging just 27 inches at the shoulders and weighing 80 pounds.

Throughout most of the year it's easy to tell males from females on sight. The males, or bucks, have antlers; they grow a new set every year. Antler growth begins in the spring, and by the summer the antlers are covered with a velvety tissue that dries up and peels off. The buck rubs the antlers against trees, which eventually removes the remaining velvet, leaving the antlers hard and smooth. Antlers are shed in late winter or early spring.

It is important to avoid contact with fawns. Although the fawns are able to run and follow the doe shortly after birth, the wobbly-legged fawn protects itself from predators by hiding in tall grass near the doe for their first few weeks. The fawns have no scent and during this time the mother deer limits contact with her fawn, except to nurse, so that her scent will not attract predators and mark the fawn's hiding place. After 3-4 weeks, the fawn begins to accompany the doe as she forages. The brown fur, with white spots, provides excellent camouflage for the fawn. So if you approach a fawn and it does not flee please leave it alone.  You can be assured that its mother is not far away.  Female deer never abandon their fawns unless they are forced to by repeated disturbance or harassment!

Habitat:

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can be found throughout Florida from the panhandle to the keys.

Behavior:

When deer are alarmed, the tails are held erect and waved back and forth like a flag, signaling a warning to other deer.

Deer usually rest during the daylight hours and are most active between dawn and dusk. White-tailed deer are primarily browsers, feeding on the leaves, shoots, flowers, and fruits of trees, shrubs, and forbs.  When they are nervous, deer will stomp a foot and snort, just before running off. Because deer are browsers, they may occasionally  damage planted shrubs and landscaping.  Fencing is an effective remedy, but it can be expensive in large areas.  Repellents may have limited use.

You can receive technical assistance with deer management by contacting the FWC regional office nearest you. 

Additional Information:


Image Credit: Robert Vanderhoof



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