White-tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus
Deer - profile

Adult male white-tailed deer in Florida weigh on average 125 pounds and stand approximately 36 inches tall at the shoulder.  Female deer are smaller, averaging about 95 pounds and 32 inches in height.  Florida deer are considerably smaller than those in most other states.  There is also substantial variation in body size among deer within Florida.  Deer in Florida are well adapted to the climate and environment.  The smaller body size is beneficial in warm climates because it allows for less energy to be expended for regulating body temperature.  Smaller body sizes also may enhance survival in habitats where soil fertility is low.   

In Florida, the breeding period, or rut, is typically not as synchronized as it is in northern states.  This is partly due to the long growing seasons and mild winters which allow fawning to occur almost year round.  In south Florida, an area of high rainfall, breeding is likely timed to synchronize birth with the driest period of the year (February/March).

Fire is an integral component of Florida’s ecosystems, and many of the state’s animal and plant species have evolved under a regime of fire.  It is the most economical and beneficial deer habitat management tool in Florida.  Prescribed burning can greatly improve habitat by stimulating the growth of grasses, forbs, and other herbaceous plants that provide both food and cover for deer.  Fire can also act as a catalyst that releases nutrients from bound-up organic matter on the forest floor.  These nutrients then become available for plants, which increases their palatability, digestibility, and nutritional value.  An added benefit of prescribed fire may also be a reduction in parasite populations, particularly immature stages of ticks and parasites they ingest internally off of plants that they eat.

In Florida, burning during winter dormancy can benefit does by improving forage quality to improve their nutrition while nursing fawns; however, resulting habitat enhancement are short-lived (2-4 months).  Growing season fires (spring/summer), which mimic natural lightning fires, offer improved forage quality for pregnant does in summer, a time of peak energy requirements for developing fetuses.  Spring and early summer fires also benefit bucks during antler growth.  On the refuge, a combination of dormant and growing season fires provide enhanced levels of nutrition during active growth periods of both sexes, among all age classes. 

Learn more about the South Florida Deer Research Project, a collaborative 5 year study completed in 2020 on Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve conducted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, University of Georgia, Virginia Tech, and the Jones Center at Ichauway.



Garrison, E. and Gedir, J. 2006. ECOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT OF WHITE-TAILED DEER IN FLORIDA.  Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee, Florida. 

Richardson, Larry.  Personal communication.


Facts About White-tailed Deer

“White-tailed” comes from the coloration on the underside of the deer’s tail.

You will see a deer flick up its tail when it senses danger.

Home range for deer on the Refuge is 1.2 sq miles.

Few deer give birth before the age of 2.

There are four subspecies of white-tailed deer in Florida.  The Florida coastal white-tailed deer (O. v. osceola) occurs in the panhandle, the Florida white-tailed deer (O. v. seminolus) in peninsular Florida, and the Virginia white-tailed deer (O. v. virginianus) in the extreme northeast.  The endangered Florida Key deer (O. v. clavium) only found in the Florida keys.