NatureMapping Animal Facts

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Species Code: ODVI

distribution map

Description: White-tailed deer are the smallest members of the North American deer family. Adult white-tail deer have reddish-brown coats in summer which naturally fade to a duller grayish-brown in winter. Male deer, called bucks, are easily distinguished in the summer and fall by their prominent set of antlers. New antlers are grown annually and fall off in the winter.

"White-tailed" refers to the white underside of the deer's tail, which it displays and wags when it senses danger.

These large mammals weigh 110 to 300 lbs (50 to 136 kg). White-tailed ears are considerably smaller than Mule Deer ears.

White-tailed Deer photo by Natures Pics Range / Habitat:
White-tailed deer are found in North America from southern Canada through Central America. They inhabit most of southern Canada and all of the mainland US. Their range reaches throughout Central America to Bolivia.

Deer prefer open woodland, but are often found on the fringes of urban areas and in farming country.

White-tailed deer are found primarily east of the Cascade crest where they are generally less numerous than Mule Deer but are expanding their range. The exception is northeastern Washington where they are more common than Mule Deer in many locations, particularly at lower and mid-elevations.

White-tailed Deer habitat includes areas along streams and rivers, mixed woodlands, farms, forests with multiple successional stages, and burned shrub fields. Generally open areas are used only when thick shrubs or forest are nearby.

Click the range map to learn more about the distribution of White-tailed deer in Washington. Then, compare the range of the White-tailed deer to the distribution of Mule deer in Washington.

Diet: Whitetail deer feed on a variety of vegetation, depending on what is available in their habitat. In eastern forests, buds and twigs of maple, sassafras, poplar, aspen and birch are consumed, as well as many shrubs. In desert areas, plants like the yucca, prickly pear cactus, comal, ratama and various tough shrubs are a mainstay of the diet. Conifers are often eaten in winter when other plants become scarce.


Whitetail deer are the most nervous and shy of the deer in Washington. White-tail deer wave their tails characteristically from side to side when they are startled. They are extremely agile and may bound at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour through the forest.

White-tailed Deer photo by Natures Pics

White-tailed females are very protective of their babies (fawns). When looking for food, females leave their offspring in a hiding place for about four hours at a time. While waiting for their mother to return, fawns lay flat on the ground with their necks outstretched, well camouflaged against the forest floor.

Whitetail deer are generally considered solitary, especially in summer. The basic social unit is a female and her fawns, although does have been observed to graze together in large herds.

Whitetail deer are crepuscular, feeding mainly from before dawn until several hours later, and again from late afternoon until dusk. They rest or are inactive during daylight hours.


Antlers do not serve as weapons against predators, but are used during the mating season, when the males fight to breed with females. The bucks antlers are shed from January to March and grow out again in in the spring.


Most white-tailed deer live about 2 to 3 years. The maximum life span in the wild is 20 years, but few deer live past 10 years old.

Did you know?

  • White-tailed deer are primarily crepuscular, browsing mainly at dawn and dusk.
  • White-tailed deer have good eyesight and acute hearing.
  • Only male deer grow antlers, which are shed each year.
  • White-tail deer are good swimmers and will use large streams and lakes to escape predators.
  • A young deer is called a fawn. An adult male deer is called a buck. The female is called a doe.
  • White-tailed deer are the most popular large game animal in the US.
White-tailed Deer photo by Natures Pics

White-tailed Deer       photo by Natures Pics

More information: Odocoileus virginianus Information - Animal Diversity Web

More photos: White-tailed Deer Photos

Animal silhouettes available to purchase »

Photos: Natures Pics

Home | About Us | How to Participate | Biodiversity Modules | Projects | Maps | News | Resources