A white-tailed deer has a coat that is reddish-brown in summer and grayish-brown in winter. The belly, throat and areas around the mouth and nose are white. The underside of the tail is also white, giving the species its name. Young deer less than six months old have coats that are covered with white spots. Males have antlers that fall off each year in December or January and begin regrowing in April or May.
Adult white-tailed deer range in weight from 125 to 225 pounds (56.70 – 102.06 kg). Males are larger than females. Deer can stand up to 45 inches (1.14 m) high at the shoulder and measure up to 7 feet (2.13 m) long.
White-tailed deer are herbivores (plant-eaters) whose diets vary according to habitat and season. They are both browsers (animals which eat twigs and leaves) and grazers (which eat grasses). Common food items include green plants (summer), corn, acorns and other nuts (fall), and buds and twigs of woody plants (winter). At Cosley Zoo, the deer are fed a commercial deer diet, hay, fruits and vegetables, and leaves and branches from a variety of trees.
In northern Illinois, white-tailed deer mate in the late fall. Does (females) give birth to 1-3 young after a six-month gestation period. The fawns (young deer) can walk immediately after birth and are able to forage for food a couple of days later. They are weaned at about six weeks of age. Female fawns may stay with their mother for two years. Males usually leave after one year.
White-tailed deer live in wooded areas near clearings or farm fields.
White-tailed deer have an average life expectancy of 2-3 years in the wild. In human care, they may live up to 15 years.
White-tailed deer play an important role in their ecosystems as major prey animals for many large predators. They are commonly hunted for meat and sport. The large amount of money that is collected for hunting licenses plays an important role in protecting our environment.