North America, and in particular the United States, is populated by two main species of deer:
- Whitetail (Odocoileus virginianus)
- Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)
According to an article on Mother Earth News, there is a third type of deer called Pacific coastal (or Columbia) blacktail (O. h. columbianus), however, they are are a regional variation of the species Mule deer.
The whitetail also has a variety of regional sub-species including Coues deer and Key deer which are both distinctively smaller than the common whitetail but share most of the species other physical characteristics.
Of the two main species, the Mule deer are the physically largest and can weigh up to 450 pounds. The Mule deer habitat is the Western United States and they can be found from the Southern area of Alaska down to the Mexican border in southern California.
The Whitetail deer has the larger population of the two species and can be found in the greatest abundance in the northeastern United States, however, the species has been observed in each of the contiguous 48 states. California, Nevada, and Utah have the lowest Whitetail population. According to Mother Earth News, the Whitetail deer is the most observed, most photographed and most hit by a motor vehicle large mammal in the United States.
Aside from the average larger size of the Mule deer, the characteristic that most distinguishes the species is the Whitetail’s namesake white tail. The species’ tail is brown on top with a dark stripe down its center, the underside white. The deer use the tail as a signaling device, lifting it up to flash an indication of danger to other deer. The males of the two species also display differing antler types, with the Whitetail having two main beams from which it grows varying numbers of points. The Mule deer males display bifurcated antlers on which each of the two main beams forks into two smaller beams, each of those forks into two more, etc.
Of the two species, the Whitetail is the most likely to be problematic to humans as they have grown increasingly invasive in areas of human habitat and have adapted to living alongside humans with little fear. Whitetail deer intrusion can result in devastating damage to home and commercial crops as well as to landscaping plants. Fortunately, despite the Whitetail’s growing comfort with humans, they have not lost their natural fear of predators. That fear can be used to drive deer away from yards and gardens with the use of predator urine based repellents like Shake-Away Deer Repellent Packs.
It is estimated that in 2014 there were 32.2 million deer in the US. Of that 32.2 million 28.6 million were Whitetail and 3.6 million where Mule deer. The 2014 population number was down from the 33.5 million deer estimated living in the US in 2013. The recent decline in deer population numbers follows a long increase in population since the early 1900’s.