15 Fun Facts About Deer

White-tailed deer may be common, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting.
Bambi, is that you?
Bambi, is that you? / Adria Photography/Moment/Getty Images

There are several deer species scattered throughout the world. White-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, belong to the same animal family (Cervidae) as moose, elk, and reindeer. They’re native to the Americas, but have been introduced to Europe, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean. Here are some fun facts about these common woodland creatures. 

About 30 million white-tailed deer live in the United States.

white-tailed deer at Lynde Shores Conservation Area in Canada
White-tailed deer at Lynde Shores Conservation Area, Canada. / Anadolu/GettyImages

White-tailed deer are the country’s most common ungulate; 30-million of them live throughout the U.S. today. The state that contains the largest white-tailed deer population is Texas, which is home to 5.3 million of them. 

White-tailed deer can run 35 mph.

One of the white-tailed deer’s greatest defenses against predators is speed. The animals have been known to run as fast as 35 mph—for several miles at a time. They’re also extra nimble, capable of bounding through the woods to escape a threat at a moment’s notice. 

Deer pick up on fewer color wavelengths than humans.

photo of a deer in a suburban neighborhood
It's a good thing their ears work so well. / Anadolu/GettyImages

While people see color on a broad spectrum, deer mostly pick out short blue and middle green wavelengths of color; they show much less sensitivity to reds and oranges. This essentially means that deer are red-green colorblind

They’re much smaller than other members of the Cervidae family.

photo of a spotted deer fawn
This fawn will never reach the size of an elk or moose. / Anadolu/GettyImages

A fully grown bull elk can weigh 700–730 pounds; even the biggest male white-tailed deer only reaches about 300 pounds, though they don’t usually even hit that weight. White-tailed deer are North America’s smallest deer species and typically clock in between 100–150 pounds. 

White-tailed deer are actually intelligent.

photo of two white-tailed deer
No dumb animals here. / Jeffrey Phelps/GettyImages

Contrary to common belief, deer are highly intelligent. They’re able to adapt their behavior based on past experiences, and have even been known to stay away from certain areas during hunting season. People sometimes think they’re dumb because the expression deer in headlights suggests the animals react poorly to high-stress situations. However, this reaction is not a result of stupidity. The sudden brightness temporarily blinds the deer—it has a similar effect as when someone turns on the light in a pitch-black room—making them freeze. 

Almost all male deer grow antlers.

A white-tailed deer buck with antlers
A buck showing off his antlers. / Wolfgang Kaehler/GettyImages

Males in every deer species except for the Chinese water deer grow antlers. Some species also get tusks, which serve as another defense mechanism. Deer antlers can grow extremely quickly; they’ve even been found to gain a quarter inch in a single day. Bucks will shed them after rutting season ends, then re-grow a new set.

Deer have a fairly short lifespan.

A 19th-century illustration of two adult white-tailed deer.
A 19th-century illustration of two adult white-tailed deer. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

The average male deer has a lifespan of six years while the average female lives for 12. Comparatively, moose tend to survive for 15–25 years, and elk live for 10–13

Deer have really good hearing.

photo of a white-tailed deer buck with antlers
Good luck trying to surprise one of them. / Jeffrey Phelps/GettyImages

Deer can hear upwards of 54,000 hertz—that’s similar to the average dog’s hearing, and about three times better than what humans can detect. The animals will definitely hear you before you see them, making it hard to sneak up on them in the wild.

They’re most active at dawn and dusk.

A female white-tailed deer
A crepuscular creature. / Wolfgang Kaehler/GettyImages

It’s possible to spot deer in the middle of the day, but they’re typically most active at dawn and dusk. Weather also plays a part in determining how active the deer in your area may be. The ungulates tend to nap during warm weather, and emerge when conditions cool. 

Deer are herbivores (most of the time).

photo of a deer in a field
Yum, grass. / Wolfgang Kaehler/GettyImages

Most white-tailed deer enjoy meals of grass, fruit like apples and berries, and nuts. The animals can be a real pain for gardeners and orchard owners, as they’ll munch on fruit trees and ornamental plants. They may also resort to eating bark and twigs when other options are scarce, and a camera trap once even caught one eating human remains

Some deer migrate with the seasons.

photo of a white-tailed deer buck with antlers
Not all deer stick to the same area. / Buddy Mays/GettyImages

Deer that live in places with dwindling food supplies will often migrate to a better location for the winter months; those with year-round access to food tend to stay in the same place. Interestingly, the survival rates for migrational and stationary deer are the same, so any long journeys don’t seem to put the animals at a noticeable disadvantage. 

Disney’s Bambi is a white-tailed deer.

One of Disney’s most famous animals is Bambi, who was modeled after a white-tailed deer. An animator who worked on the movie was from Maine and turned to his childhood environment for inspiration. At one point during Bambi’s development, a fawn from the state was even transported all the way to Hollywood.

Bambi isn’t the only member of his species to star in a famous film. Though Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is, as his name suggests, supposed to be a reindeer, he was actually modeled after a white-tailed deer in the 1964 Rankin/Bass holiday special.

They use their white tails to signal danger.

photo of three white-tailed deer in the woods
If these deer were alarmed, their tails would be flagged. / David Howells/GettyImages

When deer feel threatened or are spooked, they’ll raise their tails, exposing a white underside. This tail “flag” also tells the herd to be wary of whatever threat is lurking nearby. They use their tails to send other signals, too. Does, for instance, will raise their tails to show that they’re ready to breed during rutting season. 

They’re a popular state animal.

photo of a deer hoof print in the sand
The animals have really left a mark on some states. / Jeffrey Phelps/GettyImages

Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin have all named the white-tailed deer their state animal. 

Deer can have up to three babies in a season, though it isn’t common.

photo of a spotted deer fawn looking at the camera
Young deer mothers tend to be one and done (for the season, anyway). / Anadolu/GettyImages

Young deer are most likely to bear a single fawn, while older deer may have twins, or in some cases, triplets [PDF]. Fawns typically weigh 6–8 pounds at birth; they’ll grow to be about 60–70 pounds by their first winter. The adorable white spots they’re born with—which help them blend in with a forest or meadow floor—will fade as they age.

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