Page 143 - A Field Guide to Fairfax County's Plants and Wildlife
P. 143
te-tailed Deer

(Odocoileus virginianus)


White-tailed Deer (or whitetails)
are the biggest wild animals in
Fairfax County. Males (bucks) may
be 1.2 meters tall, 1.3 to 2 meters
long and weigh up to 135 kilograms. Females (does) are smaller and lighter.
In summer, both sexes are red-brown with white patches on the belly, tail and
around the eyes; their winter coat is grayish tan. Every year in spring, bucks
begin growing antlers on their heads. Growing antlers are covered in soft skin
called velvet. Bucks shed their velvet at the start of the breeding season. The
antlers fall off as winter approaches. Females and fawns (baby deer) have no
antlers. The mating season begins in October. Males and females separate
after breeding; bucks play no part in raising the young. Does give birth in
spring, often to twins. Fawns are born with their eyes open and can walk
within an hour or two. Mothers and fawns stay together until the following
spring. Whitetails are most active at night.

Distribution and Habitat Deer have a multi-chambered stomach
to help break down tough plants. Food
White-tailed Deer are common in is eaten and digested for a while, and
all five physiographic provinces. then burped back up in tight wads
They thrive in human-altered called “cuds” that they chew and re-
landscapes, preferring woodlands swallow for more processing. Deer rest
or dense brush near parks, fields, during the day, not to hide from people,
pastures, golf courses and lawns. but to chew their cuds after a night of
Stream buffers are important habitat eating!
and enable deer to move around

Role in Food Web

Whitetails do not eat grass. Even if
you see them “grazing” in a yard or field, they are eating clovers, wildflowers
or other plants. They also eat fruits, nuts (especially acorns), fungi and leaf
buds. They can damage garden vegetables, crops and ornamental plants.
Predators include Coyotes, Bobcats, birds of prey, dogs and people.

r 139 r
   138   139   140   141   142   143   144   145   146   147   148