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White-tailed Deer

The whitetail Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the largest wild mammal in Winnebago County, is a common sight in the forest preserves. Deer collect in family groups of a mother and her fawns. Male bucks may live in groups consisting of three or four individuals except in late fall, which is mating season, when they are solitary.

Adults are 3 to 4 feet at the shoulder, and males can weigh up to 250 pounds; females, 150. The white fur on the underside of this deer’s tail gives it its common name. Males produce antlers, which start to grow in early spring and shed after the breeding season, as early as December but as late as the following March.

White-tailed deer live in and around wooded areas, particularly those along streams or adjacent to farmland. They are herbivores that eat a variety of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses. Heavy browsing by large numbers of deer can severely damage landscaping as well as natural ecosystems.

White-tailed deer mate between October and January, and fawns are born from late May through mid-June. Fawns have reddish fur with white spots, which usually disappear by the time the animals are about 5 months old, around the time that they are weaned. White-tailed deer can breed at a young age, and many produce more than one offspring a year, every year. Adult females will usually have twins, but when nutritious food is plentiful, triplets or even quadruplets are possible.

White-tailed deer are most active between dusk and dawn. They often live in groups consisting of a doe, her fawns and her female offspring from the previous year, but some groups may contain more than one family. Bucks usually only spend time around does during the breeding season, and may live in small male-only groups other times of the year. People can occasionally see large mixed groups near prime habitat or sources of food, especially in winter when food can be scarce.