A deer and her fawn. Photo credit: CVC’s Jon Clayton

Autumn is an exciting time in the Credit River Watershed. Leaves fall to the ground and expose wildlife often hidden by the lush greenery of summer. Ontario is home to about 400,000 White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). These deer are very active in fall as they prepare for winter.

An energetic White-tailed Deer jumping through the snow. Photo credit: Jon Clayton
An energetic White-tailed Deer jumping through the snow. Photo credit: Jon Clayton

For White-tailed Deer, the key to surviving winter is bulking up. Deer are herbivores, which means their diet is plant-based. During autumn they spend hours grazing on grasses, herbs, leaves and agricultural crops. They consume as many calories as possible in order to build up fat around their internal organs and under their skin. They can eat about four per cent of their body weight in a day. That’s about 13 lbs! In addition to their thick coarse fur, the built up fat insulates them and provides energy reserves for the cold months ahead.

A family of White-tailed Deer getting an early start to the day. Photo credit: Jon Clayton
A family of White-tailed Deer getting an early start to the day. Photo credit: Jon Clayton

In addition to eating as much as possible, mating is also on the top of their priority list. Mating season is called a rut and occurs between October and November. Deer become less cautious during the rut and are spotted frequently during the day, actively looking for a mate. The male deer (buck) entices the female deer (doe) by showing off the size of his antlers. If a buck feels threatened by another male, he may charge at the male using his antlers to prove his dominance. After a buck and doe mate, gestation is about seven months and fawns are usually born in May or June.

A mother Deer grooming the fur of her fawn. Photo credit: Jon Clayton
A mother deer grooming the fur of her fawn. Photo credit: Jon Clayton

Like humans, deer also have to adjust to daylight savings time. As the days become shorter and mating season comes to an end, the buck’s testosterone levels greatly decrease. As a result, their antlers eventually fall off during winter – but not for long. Their antlers grow back in spring, growing at a speed of up to a quarter of an inch a day! Bucks can grow an entire set of antlers in less than two months.

A buck with antlers. Photo credit: Jon Clayton
A buck with antlers. Photo credit: Jon Clayton

While deer are not considered a species at risk, they face many challenges negatively influencing their ability to thrive in urban environments. As our population continues to increase, deer are experiencing habitat loss due to rural and urban land development, vehicle collisions, family pets and disease.

Deer species are an important part of our watershed and a key component to a thriving ecosystem. You can help deer by:

  • Being cautious while driving along natural areas, especially during dusk and dawn and during the rut when deer are more active
  • Maintaining and enhancing natural areas on private properties, especially where they connect to other, larger natural areas
  • Not allowing pets to harass deer or other wildlife, by keeping dogs on leash

Have you taken any photos of deer? Share them with us by tagging @CVC_CA. Learn more about animals in our watershed by visiting our wildlife page.

Comments (8)

  1. If you see a deer while driving, assume there are more. They are not solitary animals. I have often seen one deer cross the road, slowed or stopped to see a second or third follow.

    Safe Travels.

  2. Very interesting information on the white tailed deer. I learned some important info on the species today that I didn’t know before. Keep up the good work !!!!

  3. Thanks a bunch for this useful info and the pics. I see a fair number of deer here in the Rockwood area where I live. It always excites me to see these beautiful and elegant creatures!

  4. I do not appreciate hunters picking off deer along our side roads, which is dangerous, or dropping off corn meal, shooting deer from their pick ups. This is not “hunting” in a natural setting. Can the CVC and MNR develop a best practice approach, maybe a brochure distributed when licences are issued ? Can I report these violations to the OPP ?

  5. Hi There My Name Is Laiba and i am in grade 3 i live in Mississauga i love the nice clear photographs in the post! I really want to learn about Deer`s I’ve learned that hunter`s should not be killing deer`s because they need to live.This was a really good article conservation information.I also learned about not allowing pets to harass a deer a other wild wildlife, By keeping dogs on leash.Thank you so much for this article I do Appreciate It.

  6. Hi my name is Elizabeth. I am in grade 3 .I live in Mississauga . I love the baby and mother pic. Very great information I learned a lot about white tail deer`s . These information`s are very interesting to learn . Cute photographs love the pics. I learned that like humans , deer`s also have to adjust to daylight savings time that`s a very cool fact that I never knew about. I really appreciate your hard work keep up your hard work. Does deer`s change colors during the season?

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