Photographs on this page courtesy of SFWMD
Most of the deer (Cervidae
) in Florida are white-tailed deer. The others are confined to islands. Species accounts from the 1970's also list the Axis Deer, an introduced species, found east of the St. John's River. There is no mention of it in the current literature.
The Sambar Deer
, Cervus unicolor
, is an introduced species found in wetlands on St. Vincent Island in Franklin County. It is much larger than the native white-tailed deer, reaching a length of 78-102". It is dark brown (winter) to chestnut (summer), with a large muzzle and broad ears. Males are antlered. Its diet consists mainly of aquatic plants.
The White-tailed Deer
, Odocoileus virginianus
, is found in forest edge habitats statewide. It is gray- to russet brown with a white underside. It is large (55-80") with large ears, a large tail, and long slender legs. Males have antlers. Antlers are largest on males 6-10 years old. They are shed in late winter or early spring and regrow 6-8 weeks later.
It is an herbivore, feeding primarily on twigs and leaves. Its diet also includes acorns
, fruits, and mushrooms. Plants attractive to deer include cross vines
, Hercules club
, Smilax spp.
, Persea spp.
, Crataegus spp.
, tupelo and gum trees
, and beautyberry
. Most browsing is done at night or on overcast days.
Breeding season is from September to March. About 200 days later, a litter of 1-3 fawns is born. The young begin accompanying the mother to feed at 3-4 weeks but are not weaned for another 2-3 months and will remain with her until they are 6-18 months old.
Predators include man, dogs, bobcats, coyotes, bears, and panthers.
** PROTECTED **
The Key Deer
, Odocoileus virginianus clavium
, is found in the Lower Keys, primarily in the National Key Deer Refuge. It is similar in appearance to white-tailed deer, described below, but smaller and with proportionally shorter legs. It also has a black mask on its face.
Breeding season is from September through December. Typically, a single fawn is born.
[ Mammal Index | Protected Mammals ]