Deer Lifespan: How Long Do Deer Live?

Written by August Buck
Updated: October 24, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/randimal
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Found around the world in a variety of species and breeds, deer are prevalent in just about any society or forested wilderness. But have you ever wondered–how long do deer live? Given that deer are often hunted in the wild, the answer may surprise you.

In this article, we will look at how long different species and varieties of deer live, the average deer life cycle, and will even discuss some of the oldest living deer discovered in the wild. Whether you are an advocate for these creatures or simply want to learn more, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started. 

How long do deer live?
Found around the world in a variety of species and breeds, deer are prevalent in just about any society or forested wilderness.

iStock.com/randimal

How Long Do Deer Live?

Deer live 3-6 years on average in the wild. While other animals contribute to this lower life span, most of the time humans are to blame for this shortened life span. This is due to widespread hunting around the world, as well as various environmental factors. 

How long do deer live in captivity? According to the Deer Association, deer kept in captivity live significantly longer than wild deer. There are even some wild deer on record as having lived long and healthy lives, and this could bring the average up to 7 to 10 years. 

Some of the oldest deer in captivity reached over 20 years of age, with some female deer even giving birth to fawns during this later stage in their life. Given the significant difference between life spans of deer in the wild and deer in captivity, it is safe to say that human and other predator intervention is the reason for their lower lifespan in the wild. 

Mule deer and white-tail deer in particular experience lower life spans given our increased proximity to their native habitats. Building roads and homes in a deer’s native habitat means they are placed in more danger and have fewer places to hide from predators.

How long do deer live according to their locations? Deer populations can vary state by state alone, no to mention worldwide. Factors that affect deer age in any give region include the volume of hunting that occurs and environment. States like Georgia and Texas house some of the older bucks researchers have come across. Other states where hunting is more prevalent, the average age would be lower. Climate and natural disasters can also play a part in the average age of deer.

How long do deer live?
Deer live 3-5 years on average in the wild.

iStock.com/Harry Collins

The Average Deer Life Cycle

Whether the deer is braving the wilderness as a young fawn, or perhaps has been born into a life of luxury in captivity, the average deer life cycle is extremely interesting. Let’s talk about that now. 

Newborn, or Fawn

Adorable and incapable of protecting itself, baby deer play a unique role in a herd of deer, no matter the species. Most young fawns are able to walk within 30 minutes of being born, but a mother deer will keep her young safe and secure in a protected area. This usually involves underbrush and a location away from where the herd spends its time. 

A mother deer will feed her young for a week or two in this protected location, both to keep her baby safe and keep the rest of the herd safe in case a predator smells the newborn. Once the baby is strong enough to walk and run on its own, it can join the herd and begin its life as a young deer. 

Young Deer

How long do deer live?
Most young fawns are able to walk within 30 minutes of being born, but a mother deer will keep her young safe and secure in a protected area.

Tony Campbell/Shutterstock.com

Young deer require sustenance from their mother until they are just about five months of age. By that point, they will know how to forage and find food on their own, consuming a diet of leaves, grasses, and other herbivore staples.

You know a deer is still young when it has its trademark spotted coat. This dappled appearance helps protect young fawns in sunlight, acting as a form of camouflage. This coat remains spotted until the deer has reached over a year of age. It can then be considered an adult. 

Adult Deer

Deer are herd animals, but they often go through many different iterations, especially as more adult deer join their ranks. Female adults often stay in the same herd and mate with the dominant bucks, while male deer are often responsible for dividing the herd and potentially causing issues within the group. 

If a young deer has made it to adulthood, it has a better chance of surviving. However, the larger a deer is, the more appealing it is to hunters as a game kill. This is why many deer don’t survive beyond the first five years of their life.

How long do deer live?
Deer are herd animals, but they often go through many different iterations, especially as more adult deer join their ranks.

iStock.com/Karel Bock

Lifespans of Different Species of Deer

How long do deer live according to species? Since hunting plays such a huge role in the lifespan of the average white-tail deer, you may be curious to hear about the lifespan of other different species of deer. Let’s take a look at some of those different lifespans now. 

  • White-tailed deer: 3-5 years in the wild, 20 years in captivity
  • Mule deer: 5-9 years in the wild, 15-20 years in captivity
  • Red deer: 6-10 years in the wild, up to 20 years in captivity
  • Sika deer: 10-12 years in the wild, up to 25 years in captivity
  • Roe deer: 5-7 years in the wild, 10-16 years in captivity
  • Water deer: 7-10 years in the wild, up to 15 years in captivity
  • Eld’s deer: unknown in the wild, but up to 16 years in captivity
  • Tufted deer: 5-8 years in the wild, up to 15 years in captivity

As you can see, the lifespan of any species of deer greatly increases if the deer is kept in captivity. However, the majority of deer species have ample population growth and most are not threatened in any way. 

No matter the species or location, deer are beautiful wild creatures to observe, both in the forest and in captivity. Their life cycle is unique and special, and any species of deer deserves our respect!

mom-and-baby-deer-in-flowers-picture-id1298962387

iStock.com/randimal
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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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