White-Tailed Deer

The Forest Preserves' Largest Mammals

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are perhaps the most recognizable animals in DuPage County. Adults are 3 to 4 feet at the shoulder, and males can weigh up to 250 pounds; females, 150. The white fur on the underside of the tail gives this deer its common name.

White-tailed deer are most active between dusk and dawn. They live in and around wooded areas, particularly along streams or adjacent to farmland, but are adaptable and can live in populated urban areas that provide them with their diet of trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses. Heavy browsing by large numbers of deer can severely damage landscaping as well as natural ecosystems.

They often live in groups consisting of a doe, her fawns and her female offspring from the previous year, but some groups may contain more than one family. Bucks usually only spend time around does during the breeding season and may live in small male-only groups other times of the year. Large mixed groups may congregate near prime habitat or sources of food, though, especially in winter, when food can be scarce.

Males start to grow antlers in spring in preparation for the breeding season from October through January but shed them each winter after the season ends. Females usually have twins but can have triplets or quadruplets if there's plenty of nutritious food. Fawns are born late May through mid-June and have reddish fur with white spots, which usually disappear by the time they're 5 months old and weaned.