The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), commonly referred to as the whitetail, is perhaps Ohio’s best-known wildlife species. It is seen in the state’s wildlife areas, parks and nature preserves as well as in the backyards of rural and suburban residents. As the state’s only big game animal, it has provided table fare for generations of the state’s inhabitants, from Native Americans to thousands of sportsmen and women today.
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The whitetail has two seasonal coats. The spring/summer coat is reddish tan and relatively short, with thin and wiry hair texture. The winter coat is more grayish or even bluish tan with heavy, long guard hairs and a thick undercoat that provides excellent insulation. White patches are found around the eyes, on the throat, belly, tail (underside) and insides of the legs. When in flight, the large white tail or flag, flipped up in the air can be the easiest way to spot the deer.
Courtship activities among deer begin in mid-October. Bucks will chase does over a period of five or six days prior to mating. The buck will mate with a doe several times and remain with her for a few days, keeping other males away. Eventually, the two will separate and the male will go on to breed with more does before the breeding or rutting period ends.
Gestation lasts 187-222 days; 200 on average. Young are born from mid-May through July and are fully weaned and leave the mother after 10-12 weeks. A doe will have 1 fawn in her first breeding year and can have 2 or 3 fawns per litter in the following years.
Habitat & Behavior
Whitetails are active around the clock, but less so during daylight hours. Most often, white-tailed deer are on the move at dawn and dusk. This behavior can prove hazardous to humans during the breeding season in the fall. Commuters to and from work often encounter deer on the move at this time of year, which can result in serious accidents. Drivers should pay special attention October through December when traveling through zones marked with deer crossing signs.
Research & Surveys
Ohio Deer Population Summary [pdf]