When it comes to deer gestation, the length of pregnancy depends on the type of deer you’re talking about. That’s right—there’s more than one kind of deer out there. In fact, the word “deer” might refer to any member of the Cervidae family of animals. This family includes elk, reindeer, moose, mule deer, muntjac, white-tailed deer, red deer, and fallow deer. All members of the ‘deer’ family are hoofed ruminants with semi-permanent antlers. They all chew, digest, regurgitate, and rechew their food. Also, they all reproduce in similar fashions and with similar gestation periods.
Here, we’ll learn about deer gestation for a few species, including reindeer, elk, moose, and white-tailed deer. But first, we’ll get to know these creatures a little better. Then, we’ll find out just how long the deer gestation period is and when these hooved animals tend to reproduce. Finally, we’ll find out how many babies deer have at once and whether or not they mate for life.
Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about the deer gestation period!
Deer: The Facts
The length of deer gestation varies with the exact species. Moose are the largest type of deer, and muntjac and fallow deer are among the smallest. No matter the species, all deer have hooves and chambered stomachs, and they also eat plants. Deer of all kind are frequently hunted and eaten by humans, as well as wolves and occasionally bear. They live all over the world, with native populations on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.
Overall, deer have four legs that end in evenly divided hooves. They’re built to run, and they spend their time avoiding predators, foraging for food, and making more deer. Most male deer (with the exception of the water deer in Asia) have antlers for only part of the year. The antlers are made of bone, nerves, and blood vessels, and they serve as indicators of both age and dominance. Only the males with the best set of antlers get to mate with females. Deer range in color from light tan to dark brown, with some, like the fallow deer, even sporting white spots into adulthood.
Deer are small-large ungulates (hooved animals). They have long legs and graceful bodies. The largest members of the family are moose and elk. Moose can grow up to seven feet tall at the shoulder and weigh over 1,500 pounds. Additionally, their bodies often measure over seven feet long. The largest elk top out at close to 1,000 pounds and stand about five feet tall at the shoulder. Their bodies can reach eight feet in length. The smallest deer are the muntjac, which grow to under two feet tall at the shoulder and weigh no more than a medium-sized dog.
Distribution and Habitat
There are native species of deer living in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and some parts of Africa. Deer prefer areas where they can find plenty of grasses, forbs, or leaved plants to eat. Both mule deer and white-tailed deer occur throughout North America and can be found in the foothills surrounding many urban and suburban areas. Africa is home to only one type of deer, the Barbary stag, which occupies the Atlas Mountains. In the icy reaches of Canada, reindeer thrive in the frigid tundra and boreal forests.
Deer are born ready to walk but with no natural defenses. As they grow, they learn to listen and watch for predators and other threats. The largest of all deer, the adult moose, has little to fear from lone wolves or bears. Female moose have been known to violently defend their calves, even from humans. Some species, like elk, group into herds at certain times of the year. These herds are usually divided into males and females with calves.
How Many Days are Deer Pregnant?
Not all deer gestations last the same amount of time. In general, the bigger the species, the longer the pregnancy. Moose gestation lasts between 230-250 days, with females having one or two offspring. Elk stay pregnant between 240-265 days and usually have one calf. Reindeer pregnancies last between 200-220 days and result in one or two babies. Mule deer stay pregnant for about 200 days and result in 1-2 calves. The smaller the type of deer, the shorter her gestation.
What Month do Deer Normally Give Birth?
Most species of deer gestation end in the late spring or early summer. This is because mating occurs in the fall when food is plentiful, and males’ antlers are at their maximum size. Female deer remain pregnant over the winter, then give birth in spring or early summer. This way, by the time the baby deer’s first winter comes around, it’s already several months old and ready to face the coming cold. In warmer climates, deer gestation periods also follow a seasonal cycle.
Do Deer Mate for Life?
There are a few animals out there, like beavers, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, gibbons, and gray wolves, that mate for life. However, deer have no such behavior. Male and female deer come together only briefly in the fall to mate. Then, they separate again, with the males having no part in raising the offspring. This occurs on a seasonal basis, with calves staying with their mothers for at least one season before striking out on their own.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © rolehcab/Shutterstock.com
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