I remember waking up last summer to notice that there was a large white-tail deer (doe) lying under one of my evergreen trees in the back yard. At first I didn’t notice her baby fawn who soon after came bouncing out from under the tree. I immediately became fascinated with its white tail. Now that we see them more and more in gardens and on lawns, they are found also everywhere else like forests, fields, streams and meadows. They generally keep to forests in winter. Adult white tails have reddish-brown coats with a white belly and tail in summer and in winter they fade to a grayish-brown color.
Male deer, called bucks, have large antlers in summer and fall. They mark their territory by rubbing their antlers on trees. The antlers have sharp points which fall off in winter after the breeding season. These antlers are perfectly seen in Billy R. Harpers painting “WHITE TAIL”. Billy’s painting captures the quintessential male buck, which can be up to four feet tall and weigh up to 300 pounds.
Female deer are called does and may give birth to up to 3 fawns, or baby deer, at a time in May or June after a pregnancy of 7 months. The number depends on how old they are and how much they eat. After a year of staying with their mother, she sends them away before reproducing again. A doe hides her fawns in the brush while she feeds. Her fawns have many white spots on their coat, which help them blend in with the forest.
Female doe & Baby fawn
If the mother doe is alarmed, her white tail automatically is raised while she runs so her young can follow her. White tails can run very fast (up to 30 miles per hour). They can leap up to 10 feet high and 30 feet long in a single leap. White tails eat mostly plant foods in summer, but can digest various foods like acorns, fruits, and nuts in fall and twigs in winter. For those of you like me, who find deer in your backyard, BEWARE! Deer eat a lot of garden plants, vegetables and small trees from your yard! It is noteworthy to mention, however, that white-tailed deer are primarily nocturnal. They have few predators, and are mostly killed by hunters or cars.
Billy R. Harper’s depiction of an alert white tailed deer in his painting reminds us that when you startle this deer, all you see is a flash of white vanishing into the woods.
See you on Thursday: almost time for Hallowe’en!