White Tailed Deer Are Part of Pennsylvania’s History

The White Tailed Deer was named the official state animal on October 2, 1959. As found in the Pennsylvania Statutes, Title 71, Chapter 6, Section 1007:

The whitetail deer is an animal that is found in abundance in the wooded areas of our Commonwealth and has played an integral part in solving the problem of survival of our early settlers and Indian population. The “whitetail,” as it is affectionately referred to, is a proud and noble animal possessing intelligence, endurance and character. Therefore, the “whitetail deer” is selected, designated and adopted as the official State animal of this Commonwealth.

These deer are tan or brown in summer, and grayish brown in winter. They have white markings on the throat, around the eyes and nose, a white stomach and the underside of the tail. Males have antlers which they regrow each spring into summer, and generally weigh 150 – 300 pounds; females weigh 90-200 pounds. The white underside of the tail is used as an alarm system. When threatened, the deer will send an alert by stomping its feet, snorting and possibly raising its tail like a flag, alerting other deer that danger is near.

The White-Tailed Deer is an herbivore, eating green plants in spring and summer,; corns, acorns and other nuts in fall; and buds and twigs in winter. Typical feeding times are early morning and late afternoon. They have a specially-designed digestive system, enabling them to survive the winters on a diet of mostly woody plants. They are ruminators, like cows and have four stomach chambers: the first two form a cud which is then regurgitated, re-chewed and swallowed.

Male bucks live in groups except during mating season (typically September through February, peaking in November); females are usually solitary unless they have young. Female fawns usually stay with mom for two years, males only one. Does have a six month gestation period and give birth to one to three fawns, which are born with white spots that provide camouflage to protect them from predators. Though fawns can start foraging for food at a couple days old, they are not weaned until they are about six weeks. They are left alone by their mothers during the day and when there are multiples, they are left hidden in separate places.

Found in Canada and most of U.S., the White Tailed Deer is also an official state symbol in ten other states (AR, IL, MI, MS, NE, NH, OH, OK, SC, and WI). Its home range is less than a single square mile, which poses a problem in developing areas as their habitat is lost and they are forced into areas inhabited by humans. When this happens, they wander into gardens for food and cross streets traveled by automobiles, unwittingly creating havoc for their human neighbors. They are swift and agile, able to run up to 40 mph, swim up to 13 mph, and jump-9 foot fences.

White Tailed Deer at Valley Forge National Park

White Tailed Deer are found throughout Pennsylvania and although often shy, can be spotted while hiking in forests or driving past open fields, especially around dawn and dusk.