By Ali Dunstan
White-tailed deer are widely distributed and can be found almost anywhere throughout the state of Florida.
Named for the contrasting white color on the underside of their brown tails, white-tailed deer are easily identifiable. Skittish and shy by nature, these creatures have great eyesight and hearing but mostly depend on their sense of smell to detect their surroundings and present danger.
White-tailed deer are commonly observed when they are active at dusk and dawn and are usually concealed in dense vegetation or found browsing for food. Their preferred habitats include open woodlands or fields which contain an abundant source of food, water nearby as well as adequate cover from predators.
Deer are grazers and feed primarily on low-growing vegetation such as leaves, fruits, acorns, agricultural crops, shrubs and flowers.
In Florida, this species stands approximately 36-42 inches tall and have average weights of around 120-175 pounds. Males and females differ in both size and appearance, with males being larger. The male deer, or bucks, can also be identified by their impressive, velvet, tissue-covered antlers which they shed annually, each unique and one of a kind, much like a human fingerprint.
While these animals are abundant, they do have natural predators such as coyotes and bears; however, their biggest threat is man, with hunting and vehicle collisions accounting for a higher mortality rate.
In the wild, deer average a lifespan of around 4 years but can live well past 10 years old. In Florida, white-tailed deer begin to breed in the fall. Gestation lasts an average of 200 days and fawning season begins in early spring, with most pregnancies yielding one to three fawns.
At birth, fawns weigh anywhere between 4-6 pounds on average. An interesting fact about fawns, or a young deer in its first year, is that they produce little to no scent. This helps to protect the baby from predators. Mothers will typically hide their newborns in concealed vegetation and limit their time with them, typically only interacting to nurse.
This is in an effort to prevent attracting any unwanted attention or predators to the fragile baby or babies. If you happen upon a fawn during fawning season and it is otherwise unharmed, rest assured that mom is most likely nearby and tending to her baby. Do not approach or intervene.
Help keep Florida wildlife wild by observing from safe distances and remembering to never feed or harass wild animals.