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The Animal Answer Guide

George A. Feldhamer and William J. McShea

Publication Year: 2012

Think of deer and the image that pops into most American's minds is that of a white-tailed deer, the most common large mammal in North America. Most Europeans are more familiar with red deer. It may surprise many people to know that there are actually about 50 species of deer found throughout the world. Here, readers will find nontechnical, expert information about the wide range of diverse deer species. Did you know that elk and caribou are deer? Or that the earliest fossils of deer are 15 to 20 million years old? Have you ever wondered whether deer swim, play, or see color? How do deer avoid predators and survive the winter? Do deer make good pets or carry contagious diseases? George A. Feldhamer and William J. McShea answer these and other intriguing questions about members of the deer family Cervidae. From the diminutive pudu of South America that weighs 17 pounds to male moose that weigh close to 2,000 pounds, Feldhamer and McShea explore the biology, evolution, ecology, feeding habits, reproduction, and behavior of deer. They chronicle the relationships between humans and deer—both positive and negative—and discuss the challenges of deer conservation and management. With vivid color photographs and an accessible and engaging question-and-answer format, this easy-to-read book is the go-to resource on deer. Nature lovers, hunters, and anyone curious about deer will find this fact-filled book both fascinating and full of surprises.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

Many friends and colleagues throughout the years have been instrumental in our interest and enthusiasm in working on various aspects of deer biology. Feldhamer is especially grateful to Joe Chapman, who hired him fresh out of graduate school in 1977 to work at the Appalachian Environmental Lab, University of Maryland, on the...

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pp. xiii-xv

My graduate work was on small desert rodents, so naturally my first job with the University of Maryland involved something quite different: studying introduced Japanese sika deer in Dorchester County, along the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. My love affair with sika deer has continued. In those early years...

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1. Introducing Deer

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pp. 1-14

In general, deer can be defined most easily as mammals with antlers. Antlers are the single characteristic that people immediately associate with deer. Although other animals may have horns, only deer have antlers, which structurally are not the same as horns. The primary difference is that antlers are deciduous—a new set grows every year...

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2. Form and Function

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pp. 15-35

Deer species vary considerably in body size. The moose (Alces alces) is the largest living deer, with body weights up to 1,760 pounds (800 kg). The smallest deer species is the tiny southern pudu of South America (Pudu puda), which is only about 13 inches (34 cm) tall at the shoulder and weighs about 17 pounds (8 kg). As might be expected...

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3. Deer Coat Colors

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pp. 36-43

The coat (or pelage) of a deer serves a variety of functions, including acting as a barrier to biting insects and protecting against the harmful effects of solar radiation. Primarily, however, the function of the pelage is insulation. Insulation is critical for all but tropical deer species during the winter, especially for those at higher...

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4. Deer Behavior

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pp. 44-54

All deer are social, because they rely on males and females coming together to mate and on maternal care for their offspring. However, species of deer differ in the degree of social cohesion (togetherness) among adults. For deer that are territorial, a male and a female may share a home range. This behavior is common in smaller species...

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5. Deer Ecology

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pp. 55-66

Forest deer do not sleep in a single location, but most have a limited number of sleeping areas, called bedding sites, within their home range. These sites most likely are determined by their degree of shade, the wind direction and speed, the slope and aspect of the ground, and their proximity to food sources. With several bedding sites...

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6. Reproduction and Development

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pp. 67-77

Reproduction in deer is a complex process where males and females must be synchronized in their hormonal and physical development. Sperm must be deposited within the reproductive tract of the female within hours of ovulation (production of an egg from a mature follicle—a group of cells—in the ovary). The signal triggering this...

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7. Foods and Feeding

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pp. 78-88

All deer are herbivores, and their diet consists almost entirely of plants. Their teeth and digestive systems are specifically adapted to cut and grind, digest, and then process nutrients from many different types of vegetation. Herbaceous plants provide a portion of the diet for all deer species, but the feeding strategies of different deer species are...

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8. Deer and Humans

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pp. 89-97

Deer are wild animals, not pets. Grown deer can be dangerous and unpredictable, especially males during the rut (mating season), even if they have become fairly accustomed to their surroundings. Without permits, keeping a wild animal is illegal almost everywhere in the United States; most city and county ordinances also restrict...

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9. Deer Problems (from a human viewpoint)

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pp. 98-111

Too much of anything can cause problems, and too many deer are no exception. Overabundant deer can create difficulties in several ways. Of course, what constitutes “too many deer” is a value judgment that certainly will vary among individuals. Biologists consider deer to be overabundant when they disrupt people’s lives, when they...

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10. Human Problems (from a deer’s viewpoint)

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pp. 112-122

People have hunted and eaten deer for thousands of years. Deer have provided meat (venison), hides for shelter and clothing, and bones and antlers for tools and artwork for early Paleolithic peoples and indigenous (native) societies worldwide (see chapter 8). Deer continue to be vital to many present-day subsistence hunters (those who hunt...

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11. Deer in Art and Literature

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pp. 123-133

Deer were objects of art and mythology for the earliest Hittite (people from Anatolia, or Asia Minor, in what is now western Turkey) and Egyptian cultures, the Greeks, the Celts, the Hindus, and others throughout the ancient world. Stags (males) were usually believed to have supernatural size and powers, while hinds (females) often were credited...

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12. “Deerology”

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pp. 134-141

There are several kinds of professionals who study deer. In North America, most of the people responsible for deer management work within state, provincial, and federal governments. Some experts, however, work as private consultants or as managers for large landowners. Deer managers are responsible for estimating deer numbers...

Appendix A: Deer of the World

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pp. 143-144

Appendix B: Deer Conservation Organizations

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pp. 145-147


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pp. 149-156

Index and Image Plates

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pp. 157-163

E-ISBN-13: 9781421404530
E-ISBN-10: 1421404532
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421403878
Print-ISBN-10: 1421403870

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 32 color photos, 77 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist