White-tailed deer

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More names for this animal

Anishinaabemowin: Waawaashkeshi

Dakota: Ṭaḣiŋça

The Dakota and Anishinaabe were among the earliest people to name Minnesota’s plants and animals, as well as to understand them in relation to Minnesota’s climate and seasons. Those original names are still in use, and several are included on the Season Watch website.

Latin (or scientific name): Odocoileus virginianus

The scientific community has a convention of assigning agreed-upon Latin names to every kind of organism. Using scientific names helps people communicate confidently about the same organism and organize lifeforms based on how closely related they are.

Page contents

A group of six deer eating grains from the ground.
White-tailed deer feeding.
September 18, 2022, McLeod County, Minnesota
Photo © kbz3980, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
iNaturalist observation

About white-tailed deer

  • The white-tailed deer gets its name, of course, from its white tail. They are known to raise their tail when running or when alarmed as a warning to other deer.
  • Male white-tailed deer have antlers which are used to battle other male deer for access to females during the mating season in the fall. Antlers are shed and regrown every year.
  • Female deer gestate for about seven months. One to three fawns are born in late spring. They are born with white spots that provide camouflage. Fawns nurse for several months and may stay with the mother for up to two years.
  • Fun fact: The white-tailed deer is one of Minnesota’s most recognizable species. In fact, legislation to designate the white-tailed deer as our state animal has been introduced at least eight times!

Visual guide to phenology

Watch for white-tailed deer presence (or absence), abundance, and behaviors at different times of year. Also, pay attention to when young-of-year appear and develop.

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Note to observers

This page explains general clues to watch for when observing white-tailed deer phenology. However, this page does not explain how to identify this animal or collect data in a standardized way.

Group of three deer, two of which have antlers. They are seen here crossing a road in a snowy scene.
A single antler with three points is on the ground, resting atop brown dry leaves. It has a grooved texture at the base and a polished smooth texture near the tips.
Male deer with velvety nubs on its head, between its eyes and its ears. These nubs will grow into antlers.
A small spotted fawn is on the forest floor, partly hidden by vegetation.
A male deer seems to be shedding its winter coat. Most of the coat is a warm brown, but patches of longer, worn hairs from the winter season remain.
Sunshine highlights the velvet texture of this deer's antlers. Tips of the antlers are rounded and soft, not tapered and pointed as they will become later.
Female deer with three young fawns. The fawns are rusty-brown with white spots and they are just over half as tall as their mother.
A buck with antlers in an autumn scene. The tips of its antlers are pale, polished, and pointy.
This photo was taken at night and shows two male deer fighting. They face one another, heads down with antlers making contact.
This photo shows the trunk of a small tree that has been rubbed by a deer using its antlers. Outer and inner layers of bark have been torn away, exposing wood that is yellowish in color.

Graphs and historical data

Note: The Orientation Center provides a map, as well as information on reading graphs; interpreting summary statistics, who collected the data and how; and how to download datasets for independent exploration.

Itasca County

First young

  • Earliest: May 18 (occurred in 2002)
  • Average: June 5
  • Latest: July 2 (occurred in 1990)
Scatterplot showing white-tailed deer phenology observations in Itasca County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)

First antlers

  • January 5 (occurred in 2014)
  • May 24
  • August 10 (occurred in 1994)
Scatterplot showing white-tailed deer phenology observations in Itasca County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)

Graph explainer available