White-Tailed Deer vs Black-Tailed Deer: What Are the Differences?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: September 26, 2022
Image Credit A-Z-Animals.com
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Deer come in many shapes and sizes despite seeming like monolithic creatures. In fact, several species and subspecies of deer are found throughout the world today. White-tailed deer are one of the most common in the Americas, but there are some less-known creatures, like black-tailed deer. Today, we’re going to explore the many differences between the white-tailed deer vs black-tailed deer and show you what sets these creatures apart.

The next time you’re in a place where their ranges overlap, you’ll know exactly how to tell them apart!

Comparing a White-Tailed Deer and a Black-Tailed Deer

The average white-tailed deer stands up to 3.9 feet tall and grows 7.2 feet long

iStock.com/Ralph Navarro

White-Tailed DeerBlack-Tailed Deer
SizeWeight: 150-405 lbs
Height: 1.7-3.9 ft
Length: 3.3-7.2 ft
Weight: 75-225 lbs
Height: 2-3.7 feet
Length: 4-5.5ft
Species– Odocoileus virginianus
Have many subspecies over their wide range
– Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
Subspecies of the mule deer
Morphology–  Possesses a reddish-brown coat that fades to gray in the fall and winter
– Has a brown tail with a white underside
– Named for the white underside of its tail that is frequently seen as part of its alarm display
– Antlers grow off a single main beam
– Longer ears than a white-tailed deer
– Have a black tail with a white underside
– Their tail is not as bushy as a white-tailed deer
– Antlers grow off of the main beam and then split into two points
– Reddish-brown coat in the summer fades into a dark brown and gray color in the fall and winter
Range– Across almost the entire southern portion of Canada, except coastal areas on the west
– Almost the entire United States, except for some areas around the Rocky Mountains in the west and Southwest
– Throughout all of Central America
– Northern parts of South America, including Peru and Ecuador in the west
– Live in forests, croplands, meadows, brush-filled fields, and more
– Can live in suburban and rural areas, including those that bring them close to humans
– Pacific Coast of North America
– California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska in the U.S.
– British Columbia in Canada
Diet– Grass, nuts, forbs, mushrooms, and fruits
– Acorns, grapes, apples, mushrooms, oats, lichens, dogwood, and more
– Their wide range allows them to consume a lot of different foods
– Forbs, lichens, grasses, fruit
– Ferns, huckleberry, blackberries, apples, cranberry, elderberry, and more

The Key Differences Between a White-Tailed Deer vs Black-Tailed Deer

The greatest differences between a white-tailed deer and a black-tailed deer can be found in their morphology and size.

The white-tailed deer is larger than the black-tailed deer, weighing up to 405 lbs, while the black-tailed deer weighs 225 lbs at its maximum. Furthermore, the white-tailed deer stands up to 3.9 feet tall and grows 7.2 feet long, while the black-tailed deer stands up to 3.7 feet tall and 5 feet long.

The white-tailed deer is known for having a bushy brown tail with a white underside for which it is named, while the black-tailed deer has a shorter, less bushy, black tail. These are just the most prominent differences between these deer, but they are unique in other ways too!

White-Tailed Deer vs Black-Tailed Deer: Size

The black-tailed deer weighs up to 225 lbs, grows 3.7 ft tall, and measures between 4 and 5.5 ft long!

iStock.com/Christina Radcliffe

The white-tailed deer is larger than the black-tailed deer in every measure. The white-tailed deer measures 150 lbs to 405 lbs, grow 1.7 ft to 3.9 ft tall and measures 3.3 to 7.2 feet long. Meanwhile, the black-tailed deer weighs up to 225 lbs, grows 3.7 ft tall, and measures between 4 and 5.5 ft long!

White-Tailed Deer vs Black-Tailed Deer: Species

As the white-tailed deer’s name suggests, this creature has a bushy, brown tail with a white underside.

iStock.com/Dan Richards

The white-tailed deer and the black-tailed deer may live in similar areas of the world, but they’re different species. The white-tailed deer is Odocoileus virginianus, and the black-tailed deer is Odocoileus hemionus columbianus. The black-tailed deer is a subspecies of the mule deer.

White-Tailed Deer vs Black-Tailed Deer: Morphology

The black-tailed deer have antlers that fork off the main beam.

iStock.com/Jeff Edwards

White-tailed deer and black-tailed deer differ in many ways. The most apparent differences between these two deer lie in their tails. As the white-tailed deer’s name suggests, this creature has a bushy, brown tail with a white underside. They raise their tails in alarm when they detect threats.

However, the black-tailed deer has a black non-bushy tail. Another major difference between these two creatures is their antlers. White-tailed deer grow antlers off a single beam, but the black-tailed deer have antlers that fork off the main beam. Also, black-tailed deer have longer ears than white-tailed deer due to their closeness to the mule deer ancestry.

Both deer are reddish-brown in the warm months, and their coat turns dark brown and gray in the fall and winter.

White-Tailed Deer vs Black-Tailed Deer: Range

White-tailed deer can be found in meadows, forest edges, and fields.

iStock.com/twildlife

The white-tailed deer are more widespread than the black-tailed deer. White-tailed deer are found throughout most of North America. They live in the southern half of Canada except near the west coast and almost all of the U.S. except for the Southwest near the Rocky Mountains. These deer are found throughout all of Central America and portions of northern South America.

Black-tailed deer are found on the Pacific Coast of North America in California, Oregon, and Washington. They’re also in British Columbia, Canada, and portions of Alaska. So, these creatures have a small overlap in their range, but white-tail deer are much more widespread.

White-tailed deer tend to live in a variety of places. They can be found in meadows, forest edges, and fields. Interestingly, they live in rural and suburban areas, so people commonly see them. Black-tail deer live in forested mountainous areas, making them less common.

White-Tailed Deer vs Black-Tailed Deer: Diet

The black-tailed deer eat forbs and lichens but also cranberries, elderberries, and huckleberries.

iStock.com/Kerry Hargrove

The white-tailed deer lives in many places, so it has access to many foods. They eat grass, nuts, forbs, mushrooms, and fruits. The black-tailed deer eats many of the same things as the white-tailed deer. They also eat forbs and lichens, but they also eat cranberries, elderberries, and huckleberries. White-tailed deer eat a greater variety of foods because they can access more foods.

All in all, the white-tailed deer and the black-tailed deer are very different creatures. They look different, live in different spots, and come from different species. They may look alike at first glance, but their unique qualities make it simple to tell them apart.  

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White-Tailed Deer vs Black-Tailed Deer

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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Sources
  1. United States Department of Agriculture, Available here: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs142p2_042116.pdf
  2. State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Available here: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=deer.main
  3. N.C. Cooperative Extension, Available here: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/white-tailed-deer
  4. The University of Chicago Press, Available here: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/284096
  5. Forest and Wildlife Research Center, Available here: https://www.msudeer.msstate.edu/deer-diet.php