Here is the first installment of a new series that I’ve been so excited to share with you all. The most popular mammal that gets all the attention in our preserve would be the white-tailed deer. These four-legged prancing animals have obtained for themselves quite a reputation in our city of Chicago. They are not only a delight for visitors to see but are also complex creatures, full of interesting and often surprising facts.
Because there is so much to cover about these beautiful creatures, I will be installing separate posts for the season. We will cover basic deer facts and explain what goes on with these animals during the four seasons. Like the natural world around them, the deer experience changes throughout the four seasons. These changes not only act as a benefit for their survival but are a fun and educational experience for humans to enjoy.
Once I learned about these fascinating facts, I became very interested in hiking the preserve on my lunch break or on the weekends, to see how many of these changes I could detect. I would encourage you to do the same. If you have children, make it a family trip. If you’re bored and would like to pass some time, research the closest area near you where deer sightings have been reported. You’ll likely find much enjoyment in observing these animals at a closer distance than your television.
So without further adieu, let me introduce you to the fascinating and beautiful world of the white-tailed deer!
Introduction: The Basics
Let’s start with the name that I first introduced you to. Though North America has a vast population of deer in the country, it doesn’t mean all deer are the same. Many basic habits are similar to the family of Cervidae, which include moose, elk, reindeer etc. The white-tailed deer is apart of this class, but they have a distinct difference that is evident in the name.
You’ve guessed it, their white tail! You’ll be naturalist authors before you know it! The white-tailed deer has a distinct fluffy tail which sticks straight up, revealing it’s white fur. They do this as a warning to other deer or animals to indicate that danger is afoot.
While other deer may have white fur on the underside of their tail, only the white-tailed deer will use this tool as a flag and a warning.
The white-tailed deer are color blind. They see the world with many shades of gray, causing them to rely on their other senses to help them. They do have an acute sense of scent and hearing, which is beneficial for their survival. A deer can distinctly hear a predator approaching from a surprising distance. You can imagine how handy this becomes against carnivores who would like a quick lunch.
Adult deer have a set of 32 teeth. 12 premolars, 12 molars, 6 incisors, and 2 canines. Though many other ideas have been shared, observing the wear and replacement of deer’s teeth is one of the methods for finding out the deer’s age. Younger deer have fewer teeth until their, “milking teeth” fall out. Just like children’s do.
Although I have not had a great deal of experience in observing the teeth of deer, there are many hunters who have been educated in this practice. And I suppose it would be a fun trick to try and use to impress your friends. New Year’s resolutions anyone?
Deer have four long, skinny legs with “cloven hooves.” Hold onto to your hats, folks! We’ve got one more naturalist word to show. Cloven hooves are the word used to describe the two main hooves on each foot. Now that description might be hard to picture, so I’ll make it easier. Just imagine a sheep, cow, or pig. You can cheat and search Google for some images if you want. I won’t tell! Deer hooves are similar to these animals. The females have special scent glands near their legs, which attract the males in the autumn season. We’ll discuss more of this season in the next installment, but for now, you’ve already learned so much!
As lovely as deer are for the public to enjoy, not everyone is pleased with their presence. Many farmers and agriculturists have reported the tons of damage that deer have bestowed upon their crops. Since deer are herbivores (plant eaters), that means that they can eat many types of vegetation. Most standard vegetables, plants, grasses, and crops deer will eat.
In terms of food consumption, it all depends. During the winter, for example, plants and food a limited, so deer will eat less. A standard healthy deer can easily consume 7 pounds of vegetation per day. That converts to 2,555 pounds in a year! Someone could use a gym membership as a holiday gift!
So now that we’ve briefly reviewed some basic deer facts, I think you are ready for the fun stuff! Like what happens to the deer in the autumn? What’s the deal with those antlers? Is life for a baby deer hard? Well, you’ll just have to wait for my next installment, which will be in a few weeks. However, I would still challenge you to go out and look for some deer near your area.
There’s so much you can discover for yourself by just silently observing these awesome animals. You can make a new hobby out of it too. By the time you’re done reading this series, you’ll be a genius in Deer Facts 101!
Maybe you do know a lot about deer already though. Perhaps you grew up seeing them or observe deer regularly? If you fit into this category, that’s great! Please share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you. What’s your story with deer? When do you remember being introduced to this interesting animal?
And as always if you have any questions, would like to review this article, or just want to share your thoughts, please do so in the comments! This blog is an open canvas to do so with. Your words will not only be seen and reviewed but also treasured!