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Department of Planning and Natural Resources
Division of Fish and Wildlife
U.S.V.I. Animal Fact Sheet #11
White Tailed Deer
+ Only deer in the USVI
* Small two toed prints
* Skull is similar to a cow, but much smaller.
The White-tailed Deer, Odocoileus
virginianus, gets its name from the underside of its
tail, which is bright white and exposed when it
lifts its tail high in the air while running. The
deer's body color varies geographically and
seasonally, but is usually a soft reddish tan or
yellowish brown with white undersides. The sexes
are generally alike in color although older bucks
(males) may become darker. The bucks grow
antlers that are shed annually. The smaller fawns
are speckled with white.
White-tailed deer vary greatly in size,
averaging larger and heavier in northern latitudes
where the reduced body surface to volume ratio
helps prevent heat loss. Their weight varies from
300 pounds in the north to 50 pounds in the
Florida Keys. The height and width range from 24
to 40 inches in height and 48 to 95 inches in
length. Our local bucks weigh about 90 to 110
pounds and the smaller does weigh 70 to 90
RANGE White-tailed Deer range from eastern
North America southward through Central
America to northern South America. They are
thought to have been introduced to the Virgin
Islands from the southern USA in 1790 or possibly
earlier. The deer are noted for having a small
home range, which has prevented them from
becoming exterminated in many places. In the
Northern Virgin Islands, deer swim among the
smaller offshore cays and the main islands of St.
Thomas and St. John. Their preferred habitat
comprises rolling, semiopen country interspersed
with heavier woodlands into which they flee from
enemies. They readily adapt to areas near human
habitation and activity, and quickly learn to
distinguish the sounds and signals of friends and
foes. Although the large eyes of a deer are adapted
to twilight, their sense of hearing and smell are
even more acute.
FOOD/DIET- White tailed deer browse mainly
on the leaves, twigs and fruits of vegetables,
herbs, bushes and trees. Foraging usually occurs
during the twilight of early morning or late
evening. Grass is eaten only when there is a
scarcity of other foods. Except during periods of
severe drought, deer seldom face a shortage of
food and can tolerate dry habitats. Deer can be
very destructive to cultivated plants. Management
measures may be required at times to reduce the
damage incurred on private property.
Small amounts of salt are essential for
development and growth, and are readily obtained
from salt ponds and "licks."
REPRODUCTION In temperate climates
reproduction is highly seasonal. Mating is timed
so that the fawns are born in early summer when
the food supply is optimal. In the tropics,
reproduction is less seasonal and tied to patterns of
precipitation. Although fawns have been observed
every month of the year in St. Croix, the rutting
(mating) season generally begins in May and June,
after the wet season commences, and runs through
September. The gestation period of the doe runs
from 205 to 212 days, so fawning commences in
November and continues into February. Yearling
and two-year-old does having their first young
generally have only one fawn. Providing adequate
food availability, a mature doe (three years old)
has a pair of fawns every year. Food availability is
the driving factor that decides how many offspring
will be born in the following year.
Deer do not make nests. When a doe is
ready to give birth, she chooses a safe place in
heavy brush, high grass or a cane field where the
fawns remain until they are well developed.
Unlike sheep or goats, which huddle together, the
fawns are always separated by a short distance.
Fawns weigh about 3 to 3-1/2 pounds at birth.
They are generally a brightly colored bay or
reddish yellow, and spotted with white, which
fades away at about four months. Combined with
having very little or no scent, they are well hidden
from possible predators. Mothers rarely stray far
from the fawns, so please do not "rescue"
abandoned fawns. The mother is usually nearby
and is waiting until it is safe to come back. The
mother visits them at least half a dozen times a
day. Usually she rests some distance from them,
apparently to reduce the risk of saturating them
with her own body odor, yet close enough to hear
any squeak they might make. At night she may
rest with them to keep them warm.
Deer may be extremely prolific. When
protected within a suitable habitat, there can be a
rapid increase in population. Under the most
favorable circumstances, deer populations may
increase by as much as 25 to 30 percent of their
number per year.
Only the males exhibit antlers, which are
shed annually, during September-November. New
antlers are soft and sensitive, and are susceptible
to damage. When antlers mature, at about six
months, they are covered with a hairy skin
referred to as "velvet." To polish the antlers for
fighting and rutting, the velvet is scraped off
against small trees which are often damaged.
THREATS Deer have no natural predators in
the Virgin Islands, however they are sometimes
hunted by humans, especially in the past (hunting
deer is now illegal); attacked by dogs; and are
occasionally struck by vehicles. They can host
ticks that carry cattle fever.
Deer hooves and antlers can be very sharp
and cause injury to others. They are also big
enough to cause serious damage to you or your car
if you accidentally hit one. Please drive with
caution when in areas with a lot of deer especially
during the fall rutting season.
What you can do to HELP
1. DO NOT "RESCUE" ABANDONED
FAWNS. The mother is usually nearby and is
merely waiting until it is safe to come back.
2. Deer hooves and antlers can be very sharp and
can seriously injure to you if you try and assist
an injured animal. Please call your local
animal shelter for assistance.
3. Remember it is illegal to take, catch, possess,
injure, harass, or kill any indigenous species
The only exceptions are for people holding
valid permits from the Division of Fish and
Wildlife. It is currently illegal to hunt deer in
the Virgin Islands.
4. For more information on this and other
animals in the Virgin Islands, please visit our
By Donna Griffin, William Coles, and Floyd Hayes 2003.
THIS PUBLICATION WAS PRODUCED WITH
FUNDS FROM THE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION
AND RESTORATION PROGRAM (WCRP).
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON OUR NATIVE
DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
6291 ESTATE NAZARETH, 101,
ST. THOMAS, VI 00802
PHONE 340-775-6762 FAX 340-775-3972
45 MARS HILL, ST. CROIX, VI 00840
PHONE 340-772-1955 FAX 340-772-3227