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A white-tailed doe and two fawns
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Class Information
Class Mammalia
Order Information
Order Artiodactyla
Sub-order Ruminantia
Family Information
Family Cervidae
Population statistics

Deer are a large family of over thirty species of even-toed ungulates, occurring naturally throughout much of the world, and introduced to parts of Australasia. Only in Africa, where deer, apart from the Atlas Deer, are replaced by antelopes, are they largely absent.


Seasonal movements involving migrations from higher elevations (summer ranges) to lower winter ranges are associated, in part, with decreasing temperatures, severe snowstorms, and snow depths that reduce mobility and food supply. Deep snows ultimately limit useable range to a fraction of the total. Deer in the arid southwest may migrate in response to rainfall patterns.


Deer are not especially vocal, although young fawns bleat on occasion. Injured deer utter a startlingly loud BLATT or bawl.


Food of the deer is quite varied. In Spring and Summer it feeds on green leaves, herbs, weeds and grasses more than on browse species. The reverse is true in Fall and Winter. Deer are browsers and eat a great variety of vegetable matter, including fresh green leaves, twigs, lower branches of trees, and various grasses. They are particularly fond of blackberry and raspberry vines, grapes, eggplant, mistletoe, mushrooms, and ferns. They eat so carefully they can even consume the fruit of cactus.


The mating season for deer reaches its peak in November and December, as antlered stags round up females and fight for their possession. Antlers are shed after the breeding season, from mid-January to about mid-April. Most mature bucks in good condition have lost theirs by the end of February; immature bucks generally lose them a little later. Males and females mix freely while traveling together in groups during winter months, often down to the desert floor. Dominance is largely a function of size, with the largest males, which possess the largest antlers, performing most of the copulations. Deer breed in late November and early December. A buck will find a suitable doe and they will often play chase games at breakneck speeds before mating. They will remain together for several days. When antlers start growing again in the spring, the group breaks up. The females go off by themselves and eventually give birth and nurse their young; the males wander in friendly twosomes or small bands throughout the summer months as antlers grow. From April through June, after about a 400-day gestation period, the doe delivers 3 to 8 young (normally 5). Fawns are born in late May or early June. A doe will usually produce a single fawn the first year she gives birth and then produce twins in following years. The fawn, colored reddish with white spots, weighs about 60 pounds at birth. It must nurse within the first hour and stand within the first 12 hours. During early weeks of life, the fawn sees its mother only at mealtimes for feeding. Spots begin to fade by the end of the first month. They have white camouflage spots and are further protected by having little or no scent. Fawns usually stay with the doe for the first full year.

Human use

Many species of deer are hunted for meat and sport.

The reindeer is domesticated and herded by the Lapps of Northern Scandinavia, and red deer and several other species are farmed for venison in Scotland and elsewhere.