White-tailed Deer - Life History

The breeding season for white-tailed deer is during the fall and winter.  In the most northern portion of the white-tailed deer’s range breeding may begin at the end of August and the most southern deer may breed into January. Most of the breeding occurs in November (Yarrow 2009).  The gestation period for white-tailed deer is between 190 and 210 days (Yarrow 2009).  This allows the fawns to be born late in the spring or early in the summer to allow the best chance for survival.  A doe that is pregnant for the first time will usually have one fawn (Yarrow 2009) but it is common for does to have twins after their first year of fawning if there is adequate nutrition available.
The life span of a white-tailed deer can be from 6-14 years in captivity.  In the wild, the majority of deer don’t make it to that age because of disease, hunting and automobile collisions.  The average life span for wild white-tailed deer is 4.5 years (Lopez et al 2003).  Males have an average life span of 2.9 years and females have an average life span of 6.5 years (Lopez et al 2003).


  • Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD)/Blue Tongue – EHD is transmitted by biting flies and causes extensive hemorrhaging.  EHD has a very high mortality rate.  There is no known treatment for EHD and it has not been shown to be able to infect humans (Mears 2010).
  • Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) – BTB is a chronic and fatal respiratory disease.  It is transmitted by the exchange of respiratory fluids (sneezing and coughing).  There is no known treatment for bTB.
  • Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) -  CWD is a fatal neurological disease.  It is transmitted through saliva and other bodily fluids from deer to deer. There is no known treatment for CWD.  Once a herd is infected, the disease is very hard to control and nearly impossible to eradicate.