Outdoors Journal: Whitetails are interesting

  • Article by: JIM GILBERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 12, 2009 - 11:07 PM


Whitetailed deer have a thin reddish summer coat which is replaced by a thicker gray winter coat. Antler growth begins each spring and continues until late summer. Most bucks retain their antlers only until after the breeding season ends in December. This indicates antlers are not used for defense against predators as deer are in greatest danger in the deep snow of winter.

Deer are primarily browsing animals. They will eat fungi, acorns, grass, and herbs in season. In the winter they browse twigs of sugar maple, basswood, bur oak, ironwood, staghorn sumac, and other trees and shrubs, eating mostly woody parts which are pencil size or smaller.

Wildlife biologists have found that a healthy deer could eat 10 to 12 pounds of browse (twigs) daily. A deer could survive for a while on 2 to 3 pounds per day but may be starving; 6 to 8 pounds are needed consistently. However, whitetails are not strict vegetarians.

They can catch and eat fish in shallow streams, eat small birds, and dig through 6 inches of snow to feed on wintering colonies of ladybug beetles.


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