Illinois State Land Mammal
White-tailed Deer (common name)
Odocoileus virginianus (scientific name)
The white-tailed deer is native to the United States and a common sight in all but a few states. It is the most popular choice in the country as a state animal, having been designated as such by Arkansas in 1993, Illinois in 1980, Nebraska in 1981, New Hampshire in 1983, Ohio in 1988, Pennsylvania in 1959, and South Carolina in 1972. Michigan (1997) and Mississippi (1974) also include it among their designated state animals. The whitetail is a medium-sized, brown deer that was an important source of food and leather for the indigenous peoples of the country. It remains the country’s most important game animal and is prized for its meat (called "venison") and the challenge of hunting it, especially with a bow and arrow. Whitetails are larger in the northern part of its range and the smallest sub-species can be found in the southernmost part of the US in the Florida Keys.
ALSO KNOWN AS
Virginia deer, Columbian white-tailed deer, Southern white-tailed deer, whitetail
Reddish brown in summer and grayish brown in winter. A small population of white (not albino) deer is found in upstate New York. Males shed their antlers from late December to February and re-grow them every year in late spring when they are covered with a fuzzy tissue known as "velvet."
Up to 15 years; average of 2–3 years in the wild
Range: Southern Canada to Peru; absent from California, Nevada, and Utah; introduced to parts of Europe and New Zealand.
Conservation: Least Concern (LC). Deer were severely depleted throughout their range in the U.S. by the late 1800s and early 1900s. Hunting restrictions brought populations back to historic levels, but then the elimination of the animal’s natural predators led to an overpopulation of whitetail deer over much of its range.
Whitetails will stay completely still when they sense danger and then will raise their tail in a flash of white and run away at great speed. They are athletic animals that can jump 8-foot (2.5-m) fences and swim at 13 mph (21 kph). Male deer ("bucks") grow antlers they use for marking trees in their territory and sparring with other males to determine the hierarchy within the herd. Bucks rarely eat or rest during the mating season (the "rut") when they will attempt to mate with as many females as possible. Whitetail females ("does") will tenaciously defend their fawns, up to the point of risking their own lives.
Top land speed recorded: 40 mph (64 kph)
Plant shoots, twigs, buds, leaves, pine needles, cactus, grasses, acorns, wild apples, plums, corn, mushrooms, sumac, hay, and grains.
Breeding interval: Annual
Birthing period: May–June
Average litter size: 1–3 fawns
Size at birth: 3–14 lbs (1.4–6.3 kg); average 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg) for females and 7.5 lbs (3.4 kg) for males
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Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press