White-Tailed Deer
Odocoileus virginianus

Look out for White-Tailed Deer! Bucks looking for mates from October to January have only one thing on their mind. They don't watch out for cars when they run into the street, so we have to watch out for them!

At 200-300 pounds, the bucks are the largest wildlife at Ryerson Woods; does may weigh up to 250 pounds. With long thin legs, tawny fur, white markings and regal stance, these graceful animals have made Ryerson Woods and many of the surrounding suburbs their home. Walking the trails in the morning or afternoon in any season, you may see a small group browsing, or leaping through the woods with their tails up, white fur flashing as they go.

Deer eat a variety of vegetation including leaves, berries, flowers, nuts, and corn. In the winter they will chew on saplings, twigs, tree buds, evergreen needles and will strip tree bark when they are hungry. They are strong swimmers and will eat aquatic plants as well. Deer usually bed down under cover during the day to regurgitate and chew their cud.

Seven months after mating in the fall and early winter, does go off alone to give birth. Usually, the first year a single fawn is born; following years, there may be twins or even triplets if food is abundant. Does hide their spotted newborns in thickets for the first month, feeding nearby and returning frequently to nurse. Yearlings feed by themselves but will rejoin their mother for the winter before permanently going off on their own the next spring.

Except during mating season, the bucks generally group separately from the does and fawns. They begin to grow antlers in April or May. The size and number of prongs isn't determined by the age of the buck, but by the quantity and quality of food that is available, their general health and genetics. A velvety layer of skin and blood vessels covers and nourishes the growing antlers. By August or September, they are fully grown and the velvet covering starts to die and peel off. Antlers are shed in late winter or early spring but they are rarely found because mice, voles, squirrels and other animals will find them first and gnaw at the antlers for nutrition.

Deer are not usually physically aggressive. If startled, they would prefer to set their ears back, stare, stomp on the ground or snort. Though bucks may occasionally fight each other, the white-tailed deer don't want to fight with us. If we aren't frightened by their displays, and get too close, they will probably flick up their tails and take off into the woods.

White-Tailed Deer
White Tailed Deer
(Jim Schultz, photographer)

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Pustelnik Designs and Friends of Ryerson Woods