White-tailed Deer Fact Sheet
|Habitat: Field and forest
edges, woodlands with an understory of herbaceous vegetation.
Weight: Males: 150 pounds (average); heavier weights are not uncommon;
females: average 110 pounds.
Length: 71 inches; 39 inches high at the shoulder. Males are generally
larger than females.
|Food: Spring/summer: grasses
and forbs; fall: acorns, other mast items, and apples; winter: twigs and buds from a wide
variety of hardwood trees and leaves from conifer trees such as white pine and hemlock.
Identification: The white-tailed deer is a stately,
graceful animal distinguished by conspicuous ears, long legs, and narrow, pointed hooves.
Adult males have spreading, branching antlers. The most noticeable feature is the tail,
which is brown above and white underneath. When the animal is alarmed, the tail is raised
high, revealing a white "flag" as the deer bounds off through the woods.
White-tailed deer vary seasonally in coloration. Their summer coat is
reddish-brown to tan and is composed of short, thin hairs. The winter coat is
grayish-brown to gray, with long, thick hairs. Fawns are reddish-brown with white spots,
which they lose when they are three to four months old, usually by the end of August in
Range: White-tailed deer are found over most of
southern Canada and the United States (except for most of California, Nevada, and Utah)
and south to Panama.
Reproduction: The mating or rutting season starts in
late October and extends through early January. In Connecticut, the peak of the rutting
season is the last two weeks in November. Fawns, weighing from four to eight pounds, are
usually born in June. They remain under the females care through September, when
they are weaned. The number of young born ranges from one to four, depending upon the age
and condition of the doe. In Connecticut, twins are common and triplets and quadruplets
have been recorded. Female fawns born early in spring have the potential to breed by the
History in Connecticut: Due to over-harvesting for
venison and deerskins, market hunting, and a general loss of deer habitat caused by
extensive clearing of the land for farming, white-tailed deer were uncommon in Connecticut
from 1700 to approximately 1900. The numerous laws enacted during this period to protect
the dwindling deer resource, plus the improvement in deer habitat as farms were abandoned,
contributed to a slow but steady rebound in deer numbers. In 1907, legislation was passed
allowing landowners to shoot deer causing crop damage on their land. Since then, harvest
regulations have been gradually liberalized to deal with the growing herd and increasing
deer damage problems. In 1974, Connecticut passed the Deer Management Act and, in 1975,
held its first deer firearms hunting season, changing the status of white-tailed deer from
agricultural nuisance to valuable game animal. The deer population continues to increase,
as deer benefit from mans land use activities, evidenced by their adaptation to
manicured suburban environments and the clearing of forests for timber harvest and
Interesting Facts: Male white-tailed deer grow and shed
antlers annually. The antlers begin to grow in April or May. They are soft and covered
with a sensitive tissue known as velvet. By fall, the antlers harden; the deer scrape them
against saplings to remove the velvet in preparation for the rut. Antlers are used in
sparring during the mating season. They are shed from mid-December to late-January. Antler
size is determined by age, genetics, and nutritional value of the deer's diet.
Frequently, well-meaning people find a fawn alone in the woods and bring
it home without realizing that the doe was nearby all the time. To divert the attention of
predators, female deer only visit their fawns three or four times a day, for about 15
minutes per visit, in order to feed them. Not only is removing a healthy fawn from the
wild illegal, but it also reduces the animals chances of survival. To assist a fawn
that has definitely been abandoned or injured, contact the Wildlife Division for the name
of a licensed rehabilitator in your area. These trained volunteers are the only people who
can legally rehabilitate wildlife in the state.
Management of Nuisances: Nuisance deer can be
controlled using a number of methods, such as fencing, repellents, and preventive
Fencing: Electric high-tensile wire fences such as the 7-strand
slant wire, the 6-wire vertical fence, and others have been designed to protect crops from
deer damage. Spacing between wires should be about eight to 10 inches and any brush around
the fence should be cleared away. The type of fence to construct depends on such factors
as terrain, vegetation, location, and deer density. For more detailed information on
electric fences, contact the Wildlife Division.
Woven-wire fences may also be used to keep deer out of an area, and
cattle fencing or chicken wire fences will work if constructed eight to 10 feet high. Wire
strands strung above the woven wire can add more height if desired. Wire mesh fences may
be erected around individual ornamentals or other plants you might wish to protect from
Repellents: The use of repellents can be costly because they
must be re-applied following rain. In areas of high deer density and limited food
resources, repellents have little value. Home remedies such as bone meal or human hair
tied in sacks hung from trees have been used with limited success. Soap has recently
become a popular home remedy in northeast orchards. Taste and odor repellents have been
used with varying degrees of success.
Preventive Measures: Plant high-value crops away from woods,
shrub rows, or other deer cover. Ornamentals that are unpalatable to deer should be
planted in areas subject to deer damage. Persimmon, lilac, boxwood, jasmine, holly, pepper
tree, wax myrtle, century plant, and narcissus are just a few of the plants that can be
Population Reduction: Farmers who are experiencing deer damage
problems would be wise to encourage hunting on their property during the regulated deer
seasons. The only practical way to control free-ranging deer herds in the state is by
harvesting animals each year to help curb population expansion and maintain the deer herd
at a level compatible with the habitat and farming interests.
Population Management: Because deer have a high reproductive
potential and few natural predators, deer populations have the potential to increase
rapidly. In the absence of significant mortality, deer populations can double in size in
two years. High deer populations can significantly alter forested habitats reducing plant
diversity and habitat suitability for other wildlife species. In addition, deer can impact
flower and vegetable gardens, landscape plantings, and pose a threat to motorists on
Connecticut roadways. The Wildlife Division recommends the use of regulated and controlled
hunts to effectively and efficiently reduce and maintain deer populations in balance with
cultural and habitat carrying capacities.
For more information on crop damage and white-tailed deer control,
contact the Wildlife Division.
The Technical Assistance
Informational Series is 75 percent funded by Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration -
Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Program. The P-R Program provides funding through an excise tax on
the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. The remaining 25 percent
of the funding is matched by the Connecticut Wildlife Division. (rev. 12/99)