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. Generally, the white-tailed deer is nocturnal (active at night) or crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn).

White-Tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus

Distribution: Wetlands, savanna, forest, desert and grassland from southern Canada through northern South America

Diet in the Wild: Varied leaves, twigs, grasses, nuts, lichens and fungi

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Grain and hay

IUCN Red List Status: Least concern, population stable

Interesting Facts:

White-tailed deer are exceptionally agile, being able to sprint at up to 30 mph, jump up to 10 ft into the air and traverse 30 ft in a single leap.

Male white-tail deer, or bucks, periodically shed and regrow their antlers. The process can look quite alarming, especially once the buck begins to shed its velvet, the skin which covers the antlers while they grow.


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.

All Rights Reserved