Wild Guide

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From Missouri Conservationist: January 2018

White-Tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus




Length: 2.5–8 feet; weight: 90–311 pounds



White-tailed deer are such a sight to behold. When you come across a majestic buck or a doe with a fawn at her side, you can’t help but stop and marvel at the spectacle. Once you spot a deer, you may just get to see the white undersurface of its flaglike tail as it bounds for cover in the nearby woods, but it’s still an experience like no other. In Missouri, we are fortunate to have a thriving deer population.

Life Cycle

The peak of the mating season is November, and most young are born in late May or early June. A doe usually has twins, each weighing 4–7 pounds. The young accompany the female until they are old enough to breed. About half of the young females in Missouri breed the year of their birth, while others breed at 1½ years of age. Deer are in the prime of life between 2½ and 7½ years. Deer can live for 15 years in the wild.


Deer are browsing animals, eating the leaves, twigs, and fruits of trees and shrubs, and the foliage of soft-stemmed plants. They also take seeds, fungi, mosses, lichens, succulent grasses, farm crops, and sometimes small amounts of animal food, like snails and fish.

Ecosystem Connections

As deer nip off buds and branches, they encourage denser growth on those plants.

Did You Know?

Deer were essential to Native Americans and early settlers, providing food, hides, sinews for bowstrings, bones for tools, and much more.

Also In This Issue

Prairie Chickens grazing
Serving Nature and You: Fiscal Year July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen

Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler