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WHITE-TAILED DEER

There are 17 genera and 38 species of deer which range on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. They vary in size from .3 to 1.9 meters at the shoulder and weights of 7 to 825 kg. Only males have antlers (except in the genus Rangifer). The thin skin with fine hair which covers the bony antlers is referred to as velvet which later dies and is rubbed off. Antlers are larger and include more points in older deer.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileua virginianus) can reach a height of 3 1/2 feet at the shoulder and the largest recorded antler spread was 6 feet two inches. They feed on plants and bark, most often in the morning and evening. They can travel in large groups of more than 25 individuals. In the wild they usually live to 14 years (although some have lived 25 years in captivity) and females can reproduce at 2 years (Burt, 1976).

By 1900, white-tailed deer had disappeared from much of their historical range and their numbers were thought to have dwindled to 500,000. Due to protection, populations rebounded to more than 12.5 million white-tailed deer and 2 million mule deer. Because deforestation has provided a preferable habitat, the numbers of deer in many regions exceeds that before the colonization of America by Europeans. The subspecies known as key deer was reduced to fewer than 30 individuals in 1949 but has since recovered (Nowak, 1983).

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