ANATOMY OF A WHITETAIL DEER
Whitetail Survival Ears: Deer have a well developed sense of hearing.Their large ears are used to funnel sound into the ear canal. A network of muscles attached to the ear allow the deer to turn its ears in any direction without moving its head. Like dogs and other animals, deer can hear higher frequencies of sound than humans. A deer’s keen sense of hearing allows it to distinguish the sound of a squirrel hopping through the woods from the footsteps of a predator.
Coat: The deer’s coat is also well developed for the deers lifestyle. Its brownish color camouflages it with its woodland surroundings. By standing still in a forest area a deer can go undetected from the sight of a passing predator. The color of the coat depends on the time of year and age of the deer. During the summer the whitetails coat usually has a light, reddish color. In the fall, the deer molts, in which the summer coat is shed and a winter coat takes its place. The winter coat is much thicker and provides more insulation than the summer coat. The winter coat is about 2 inches longer than the summer coat. The hairs are also hollow, providing even more insulation. The winter coat is so effective that snow can accumulate on the back of a deer without melting. The color of the winter coat is different than that of the summer coat. The winter coat usually has a dull grayish color to it. Fawns have a very reddish brown color that is covered with many small white spots. These spots help camouflage the fawn by breaking up the coats solid color.
Eyes: Many say that deer have poor vision. However, almost nothing escapes their vision. With their eyes places more toward the sides of their head, they are capable of seeing a 310 degree view without moving their head. As a result of their wide field of view it is hard for them to focus on a single point. Their eyes are also well adapted for life at night. Their numerous light detecting cells, along with a light reflecting membrane in the back of the eye called the tapetum, help to increase their ability to see at night. This is important to the lifestyle of the deer because of their early morning and near dusk activities.
Mouth: The deer’s mouth has two sections. In the front of the mouth there are only small teeth on the bottom jaw. These teeth are used for tearing and breaking apart food. In the front of the top jaw is a hard palate, not teeth, which it uses much like teeth. In the back of the mouth their are molars, canines and incisors which the deer uses in chewing its food and cud. Feet and Legs: Deer are ungulates, like cows and sheep, meaning that they have two toed hoofs. The hooves are made up of 3 parts; the compact horn, sole horn, and the cuneus. The deers long legs and powerful muscles can bring the deer up to speeds of 35 mph and allow it to jump over fences 10 feet high.
Nose and Glands: The deers sense of smell is probably one of the deer’s most important sensory capabilities, allowing it to detect predators from a long distance away. To improve its sense of smell, the deer licks its nose to keep it moist, which helps odor particles to stick to the nose. Besides alerting the deer of danger, the nose also plays a role in communication. With the use of glands a deer can leave information about itself and its surroundings with the scent produced by the glands. These glands can be found on the head, called the preorbital gland, and on the legs and hooves. One of the glands located on the legs is the tarsal gland. This gland is located on the inside of the hind legs. It produces scent that tells other deer about the deer’s gender, social status andphysical condition. The interdigital gland, located on the feet, leave a scent trail that tells other deer if the area is safe. Deer sense of smell is also important during the breeding season. Bucks have a sixth sense called vomolcation. With vomolcation a buck can analyze the urine of a doe to find out if the doe is in heat. This is done by inhaling the urine into the vomolcation gland, a small hole located on the roof of the mouth.
Tail: The tail is also important feature of the whitetail deer. The underside of the tail is white, hence the name whitetail deer.The tail has an average length of 11-14 inches. The main function of the tail is to worn other deer of danger. When a deer feels threatened it raises its tail like a flag to warn other deer of the possible threat.
Antlers: Antlers are very unique to deer. Deer are the only animals that grow antlers. In fact, antlers are the fastest growing tissue in the animal kingdom. Unlike horns, antlers are made up of living tissue and are shed annually. Antlers usually only grow on males. In some species, however, such as reindeer, antlers grow on both sexes. Antlers growth is regulated by the length of the day. They grow from two spots on the head called the pedicles. In the spring antlers begin to grow, and will continue to grow until fall. During this time the antlers are covered with velvet, a short fur containing a network of nerves and blood vessels. During this time the antlers are very sensitive and the buck takes great care to avoid bruising the sensitive skin. In the fall the velvet is shed and the antlers harden, just in time for the rut. The antlers are then used in fights in which the bucks determine dominance and breeding rights. The size of antlers depends not only onthe deer age, but also nutrition and genetics. In the winter, between January and February, the antlers are shed.