White-Tailed Deer

The white-tailed deer is the smallest member of the North American deer family. The name refers to the white underside of the deer’s tail which it displays and wags when it senses danger. Despite being a smaller deer, it can leap over 10 foot fences and is known to leap 30 feet in one bound. Generally, the white-tailed deer is nocturnal (active at night) or crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn).

White-Tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus

Habitat: North America through South America in areas with cover, but not dense forests.

Diet in the wild: Grasses, weeds, shrubs, twigs, mushrooms, nuts and lichens

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Sweet feed, Caldwell zoo diet (pellets), and alfalfa

Size: About 35 inches tall (at the shoulder); weigh 110-220 pounds

Family: A baby deer is able to stand shortly after birth. A fawn is a “hider baby” for the first month of its life. Mom cleans the baby so other animals are not able to smell the youngster and will come nurse the little one 5-6 times a day, but she does not stay next to her youngster. Often people think the baby has been abandoned, but being a hider baby is an excellent defense until the little fawn is able to keep up with mom.

Status: Least Concern, however, three subspecies are listed as endangered by USDA.

Did you know? This deer can reach speeds close to 45 miles per hour when running.


Sammy is our lone buck deer at the zoo. He loves to spar with cedar trees, sticks, and hanging toys in his stall. When his keepers are close, Sammie loves to lick the keepers’ hands through the wooden boards of the barn. When white-tail deer go into rut between early November and February, they make several grunting noises and sparring increases. When his rut is over, Sammie’s antlers fall off and will re-grow over the course of the next year. The zoo saves his antlers for educational purposes. Most of the deer on the Texas exhibit are Sammie’s offspring. He loves apples, pears and any sort of browse we give him. Sammy was wild-caught in 2008 when he was just a fawn.

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