White-tailed doe at the edge of the woods near Carter Shields Cabin in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA
The White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), also known as the Virginia deer, or simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer found throughout most of the continental United States, southern Canada, Mexico, Central America, northern portions of South America as far south as Peru, and some countries in Europe.
The species is most common east of the American cordillera, and is absent from much of the western United States, including Nevada, Utah, and California (though its close relatives, the mule deer and black-tailed deer, can be found there). It does, however, survive in aspen parklands and deciduous river bottomlands within the Central and Northern Great Plains, and in mixed deciduous riparian corridors, river valley bottomlands, and lower foothills of the Northern Rocky Mountain Regions from Wyoming to Southeastern British Columbia. The conversion of land adjacent to the Northern Rocky Mountains into agriculture use and partial clear-cutting of coniferous trees (resulting in widespread deciduous vegetation) has been favorable to the white-tailed deer.
The westernmost population, the Columbian white-tailed deer once was widespread in the mixed forests along the Willamette River (Willamette Valley Forests Ecoregion) and Cowlitz River Valleys of Western Oregon and Southwestern Washington (endangered).
There are also populations of Arizona (coues) and Carmen Mountains (carminis) white-tailed deer that inhabit the mountain mixed deciduous/pine forests of Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas extending southwards into Mexico.
As a result of introductions, white-tailed deer are found also in localised areas of northern Europe such as Finland. Smaller populations are localized in the Czech Republic.
White-tailed deer are generalists and can adapt to a wide variety of habitats. Although most often thought of as forest animals depending on relatively small openings and edges, white-tailed deer can equally adapt themselves to life in more open savanna and even sage communities as in Texas and in the Venezuelan llanos region. These savanna adapted deer have relatively large antlers in proportion to their body size and large tails. Also, there is a noticeable difference in size between male and female deer of the savannas.
The deer’s coat is a reddish-brown in the spring and summer and turns to a grey-brown throughout the fall and winter. The deer can be recognized by the characteristic white underside to its tail, which it shows as a signal of alarm by raising the tail during escape.
The male (also known as a buck) usually weighs from 130 to 220 pounds (60 to 100 kg) but, in rare cases, animals in excess of 350 pounds (160 kg) have been recorded. The female (doe) usually weighs from 90 to 200 pounds (40 to 90 kg), but some can weigh as much as 165 to 230 pounds (75 or 105 kg). Length ranges from 62 to 87 inches (160 to 220 cm), including the tail, and the shoulder height is 32 to 40 inches (80 to 100 cm).1 White-tailed deer from the tropics tend to much smaller than temperate populations, averaging 77-110 pounds (35-50 kg).