White-tailed Deer


There are many deer species in the world. They range from the familiar white-tailed deer which came to Manitoba a century ago, to exotics such as the Japanese sika, European red, Indian hog, Kashmir roe, Malayan pygmy or, closer to home, the mule deer. But when you talk about deer in this province, it‘s the whitetail Odocoileus virgimkznus.

It’s one of the few animals which benefited, at least until close to the middle of the 20th century, from human settlement which brought a healthy woodland-prairie ratio. That has changed now, however, and the biggest threat to the deer is loss of habitat. Every bush removed from deer range in Manitoba means the loss of another few square feet of that cover the animal needs. Whitetail range in Manitoba is roughly south of a straight line between The Pas and Bissett.

The Whitetail is mostly a browser, feeding on about seven pounds of buds, twigs, leaves and wild fruits a day at the edges of forests, glades and burns, Its hearing and smell are acute, especially in detecting movement.

If danger calls, it flashes its white tail as a warning to other deer nearby and bounds away at speeds from 35 to 50 miles per hour leaving the enemy far behind unless deep snow slows it down. Wolves and coyotes were once the deer’s natural predators, taking mostly the young and infirm, but today human hunting and destruction of habitat have taken over in that role. One to three fawns are born in May or June. It‘s life expectancy is 15 years, although harsh northern winters, starvation, hunting, disease and accidents have cut the average lifespan to half that time.

The antlers of the male begin growing in April, the velvet skin is shed in September, and the bare antlers are polished by rubbing on saplings in preparation for the rut in October and November. Its coat is reddish brown in summer and gray in winter, blending in during both seasons with natural surroundings.

 Story published in 1975



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