White-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus virginianus
White-tailed deer typically prefer forests and woodlands, but have been known to live in prairies, fields, and even backyards, especially since much of their habitat in the Midwest has been developed or converted to farmland. Can you spot any deer or their pointy tracks on our trails?
Did you know that the white-tailed deer is Wisconsin’s State Wildlife Animal? They are one of the most common species of deer, well-known across our state and most of North America. We often think of deer as shy and majestic — however, their large numbers pose a serious problem to forests (and Midwestern highway drivers!) As many as 30 million white-taileds presently live across North America. This can be damaging to their environments, particularly because deer have a huge appetite and will eat nearly any plant they can get their teeth on — even poison ivy! With fewer natural predators and milder winter seasons, they are surviving longer, reproducing, and feeding more, and plants do not have long enough between feedings to re-grow.
However, deer may soon be meeting their match in pests and diseases, which are predicted to be more common in warmer temperatures. This is bad news for deer, but may be good news for forests as rising populations of white-tailed deer become more balanced. Some of these diseases that affect deer can also infect humans too — can you think of an increasingly common disease in Wisconsin that’s carried by the deer tick?