Deer gestation periods are an important source of information for hunters. Knowing how long deer are pregnant before giving birth is beneficial when managing the local deer population. Deer is a pretty generic term as far as gestation periods go because there are several deer types in North America and throughout the world.
Though it can vary from different types of deer (such as Elk to whitetail), the general gestation period is 200 to 205 days, with the vast majority of does becoming pregnant in the Autumn, when male deer are rutting. In some deer species, gestation lasts up to 290 days.
There is only a short period where females can conceive, usually just a few days and no more. During the rut, many hunters will target male deer only, which is a good thing if you are trying to propagate the species in the local area.
Gestation Period of Deer
Whitetail deer gestation period
Whitetail deer have the shortest gestation period out of all deer that fall under the Cervidae family. Unless there is some sort of complication, the gestation period for whitetail is about 196 days.
New whitetail deer draw their very first breath between May and July every year. Even if they are born in July, there are enough months between newborns and winter that they will have plenty of time to develop thick, solid coats to protect them from the winter chill.
The rut is the breeding period for whitetail, and it starts in the fall/autumn, ending around December each year. Like most deer, whitetail does are only capable of conceiving (estrus period) for a few days. So males are typically in a hurry.
Mule Deer Gestation Period
Mule deer and whitetail make up the majority of deer species in North America. Mule deer are generally larger than whitetail by an average of 50lbs in the males. The gestation period for mule deer is slightly longer than whitetail, lasting about 210 days, give or take a week.
One unique and interesting fact about female mule deer is that their first birth is almost always a single fawn. After that, the female will always give birth to twins. It’s not a “set in stone” thing, but it’s the case in most mule deer pregnancies.
Red deer gestation period
Red deer gestate for longer than whitetail, lasting between 240 and 260 days. Red deer are a source of confusion, at least among Americans, because they are indigenous to Africa, and Asia. However, there are red deer in North America, and we simply call them Elk.
Does will give birth to one, two, or sometimes three fawns at once during spring. Like whitetail, this gives the fawns plenty of time to develop their winter coats before winter comes around again.
Although male and female deer in all deer species do not mate for life, red deer males and females only come together during the rut and rarely hang around each other throughout the remainder of the year.
When is deer breeding season
For all deer, the breeding season takes place in the fall, going into the winter. There may be some disparity in terms of a few weeks here or a few weeks there, depending on the deer, but it’s pretty close throughout.
Some bucks will start their rut a little late in the season, around late November or early December, but it most often starts in October and lasts into December. For reindeer, breeding season starts earlier, in September. Since their gestation period is longer, it makes sense that reindeer breed earlier, so their offspring will be ready for the winter.
Roe deer, who have the longest gestation period of all the deer, start their rut in July. Once their eggs are fertilized, a female roe deer will give birth between May and June.
The cycle of life is a dynamic of resource abundance and resource scarcity. In the winter, resources are scarce, and newborns would either starve or freeze. In the spring and summer, resources are plentiful, and newborns are warm and cared for by the mother.
No matter how short or how long the gestation period, birth takes place during a time of plenty, when it’s warm or rapidly warming, and there is time for the young fawn to come into its own. Hunters who want to revive the local deer population learn about these gestation periods and hunt only males during the rut.
It’s a good way to foster positive population control methods, especially if you’re moving into a place where deer are scarce and overhunted.
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