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The White-tailed Deer

Odocoileus Virginianus

The White-tailed deer inhabits a vast territory- spanning from snow covered Northern Canada to the dry, brushy country of South Texas and Mexico, and virtually everywhere inbetween. White-tails live in abundance in a variety of terrains. Whether in the rolling hills of Virginia, or in the swamp covered land of Florida, the White-tail is an expert in adaptation and survival. While many individuals (including myself) feel that habitat destruction poses a serious threat to the survival of wildlife and the hunting tradition, it is quite possible that the reason white-tails can be found in such great quantity today is because of our agricultural practices. How so? Well, the White-tailed deer prefers to live in fringe areas, which are locations that are close to both food and cover. By cutting timber and clearing blocks of forest to create new fields for our crops, we are unknowingly sharing a portion of our harvest with the secretive, edacious white-tail.

White-tails vary in size and color depending on the region in which the animal lives. There exist 30 distinct recognized sub-species of white-tail, each of which is slightly different from the next. White-tails are sexually dimorphic. That is, there exists a substantial difference in body size between males and females, or, bucks and does respectively. Depending on the region, mature bucks average in size from 150 to 350 pounds, while mature does range in weight from 90 to 200 pounds. The largest sub-species is the Northern White-tail. Northern White-tail bucks can grow as large as 400 pounds and sport extremely heavy, thick antlers. The whitetail is an ungulate, or hoofed animal, with each foot ending in a cloven or two piece hoof. The white-tail takes its name from the white underside of its tail, which it uses to signal other deer and swat insects. The under parts of the deer's body, as well as a patch on the throat and a small band around the nose are also white. The upper body parts are covered in a thin reddish brown colored coat during the warmer months, and by a thicker, darker, grayish brown coat during the colder months.

What characterizes bucks for a large part of the year is their antlers. All members of the deer family (elk, moose, caribou, mule deer, etc.) grow antlers. The antlers that a deer sports should not be confused with horns. While the term is sometimes incorrectly used in place of antler, a horn is entirely different. Antlers are solid and shed anually, while horns are hollow and often retained for life. Deer antler is also unique in the sense of how fast it grows. Growing at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per week, deer antler is among the fastest growing tissue known to man. This tissue is covered by a soft, velvety layer while growing. The velvet offers protection to the developing antler inside. Once the growing process is complete, the bucks will rub their antlers on saplings and small trees in order to scrape off the velvet and expose the bone-white new antler. While extremely rare, sometimes does grow antlers as well.

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