Here’s Where Deer Go And Live During The Day
If you’ve ever seen deer during the day, you might know what an unusual sight it can be, especially since we don’t expect it. Deer are typically most active at dawn and dusk, but then what exactly do they do during the rest of the day?
Deer travel in herds and are most active in the daytime. During the day, deer are typically found foraging on vegetation, grasses, shrubs, leaves, and vegetables. When they aren’t foraging for food, deer are typically known to live and rest in woodland hiding places in the day.
Did you know the deer species, Cervidae, consists of 50 species including caribou, moose, and elk? Keep reading and explore the life of these shy creatures and learn where exactly they go and live during the day!
Where Do Deer Go During The Day?
So, now that we covered some facts about the cervids, let’s break it down and learn exactly where deer go during the day.
Deer are known for being active during dusk and dawn, however, I’ve personally seen them at all hours of the day and night!
Deer and cervids are considered to be crepuscular, which means that they are most active during the twilight hours, dusk and dawn. Although this is true, deer are active throughout the day depending on the seasons and the climate they live in.
You may see deer active and foraging more often in the spring and summer when their energy costs are high and forage is readily available.
Although deer don’t hibernate, they lay pretty low in wintertime. During the winter, they significantly decrease their energy expended due to a decrease in forage availability.
In short, deer activity is based on forage availability and the breeding season.
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Even though deer are active during the daytime because they are a prey species they also like to hide during the day. They are known to sleep or bed in their bedding area during the day in thick vegetation, thickets, and tall grasses.
What Time Of Day Are Deer Most Active?
As we mentioned above, deer are most active during sunset and sunrise, the twilight hours. Even throughout the year as seasons change, although their activity times fluctuate, it still tends to be around dusk and dawn.
Additionally, deer are incredibly active during the breeding season or typically known as the rut. During this rutting time, bucks are known to move constantly. Although deer can be more active during the day when it’s the rutting period, they are still known to be most active during low-light times of day, i.e. dawn and dusk.
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Where Do Deer Live During The Day?
Deer species live in almost every habitat! Cervids, the species that includes deer, moose, elk, caribou, etc., can not only live in the tundra in the Arctic Circle in Canada but also easily live in tropical rain forests in India.
It’s crazy to think that deer can live in almost every biome of the world: tundra, taiga, deserts, grasslands, chaparral, forests, rainforests, scrub forests, mountains, wetlands, and suburban habitats! They live in these areas in both the day and night time.
But do deer have a special habitat or home? Yes! Most deer prefer thick shrubs, forests, and woodlands to make their home. Because deer are prey animals, they prefer to sleep in heavy cover. This way they are secure and camouflaged.
What Else Do Deer Do?
Deer Are A Keystone Species
Did you know that deer are considered a keystone species? How incredible! A keystone species is a species that directly impacts the ecosystem and environment.
Deer can directly alter the ecosystem and the lives of other plants and animals. Contrary to popular belief, although deer destroy some populations of plants, they actually can increase biodiversity.
A study done by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center planted 140 square plots of year-old tree saplings. Some of these plots contained a high amount of biodiversity with 15 species in a single plot, and others contained singular species in a plot.
Their results were surprising! After three years of research, their study concluded that the high biodiversity plots where deer were grazing heavily had done significantly better.
They concluded that deer directly maintained diversity by foraging on competitive species and prohibiting them from becoming overly dominant.
Deer Provide Economic Value To Humans
Deer provide economic value to humans. Historically, culturally, and traditionally, deer have provided for humans.
Whether you go after deer or not, humans can and do use all parts of the deer. Deer provide us with meat, also called venison, their hide for leather, and antlers for handles of knives and other tools.
Potential Deer Pest Issues
Deer populations have been allowed to skyrocket in certain areas, such as upstate New York and Long Island.
By limiting regulations and trying to ban going after deer, most deer populations have been allowed to explode rapidly.
This poses many issues to native vegetation populations, invasive species, and disease.
According to the Cornell University Botanical Gardens, allowing deer to overpopulate can reduce forest regeneration. This means that even if a forest is seemingly healthy it will eventually be threatened by an overpopulation of deer. The best way to combat this issue is by actively managing deer populations.
A few primary issues of deer include:
- Increase in ticks and tick-borne illnesses
- Increase in car and deer collisions
- Decrease in native plants and other beneficial species
- Increase in invasive species
- Roaming and foraging of fruits and vegetables
Although it may not be readily apparent, in areas where deer populations have been allowed to overpopulate, increase, and not maintained slowly surely issues arise.
An increase in ticks and tick-borne illnesses is probably one of the top issues. Deer are tick hosts, so with more deer around, there are going to be more ticks around. This, in turn, increases Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses because there are more deer carrying ticks.
Although controlling the deer population could limit the spread of Lyme disease, limited information and research is supporting it. While it could be beneficial, the research lacking is on the efficacy of reducing deer populations and reducing the spread of Lyme disease.
But just wait!
In a published in Nature Communications done to determine the populations of deer populations and ticks, researchers found that an increase in deer populations happens to spread Lyme disease further, however, deer are simply the host for ticks to spread and not Lyme disease carriers. I don’t know about you, but that is mind-blowing!
With an increase in deer populations we also typically see an increase in car and deer collisions. This is especially true in any area where there is a larger population of drivers as well.
A decrease in native plants and other beneficial species. Although we mentioned that deer can improve biodiversity, they can also hinder it. When there’s an overpopulation of deer, they are all competing for the same resources, including food.
This leads deer to graze and forage on whatever is available, regardless if it’s something that they wouldn’t normally eat, or if they normally would choose it but in smaller quantities.
As a result, non-native, or invasive species are not competing significantly less with other surrounding plants, leading to a direct increase in their growth.
The result of allowing deer to overpopulate significantly outweighs the costs of limiting their population.
Keystone species are vital to the functioning and maintenance of our ecosystems and environments. Hopefully, now, you can see the benefits of deer populations being maintained, as well as the issues if deer populations are allowed to overpopulate.
If you want a good way to naturally repel deer from your fruits and vegetables, take a look at our guide on using dryer sheets to repel deer!
All Deer Species Are Part Of The Cervidae Family
So, as we mentioned, deer are part of the cervids, a group of hoofed ruminants that consists of roughly 50 species. Cervids are of the family Cervidae and are considered to be the deer family.
Of all 50 species of cervids, the only species that do not grow antlers is the Chinese water deer.
If you are interested in learning some more in-depth information about deer species, check out a book such as The Encyclopedia of Deer.
Since we’re talking all about cervids, let’s go into some of the deer species that you commonly see in North America:
- White-Tailed Deer
- Mule Deer
White-tailed deer might be what most of us are familiar with living in the eastern or midwestern United States.
They are found throughout most of North America and parts of southern South America. Kansas is also known for having giant white-tailed deer.
White-tailed deer live in almost every habitat including, forests, grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, coastal areas, and deserts!
Although their diet consists of all sorts of vegetation and grasses, they are known to demolish vegetable gardens and landscapes! Speaking from experience, they love Hostas!
Mule deer are typically found in the western parts of North America from the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains. You are likely to see them in mountainous areas, such as the high desert.
They are thick deer, with large ears that have black on the ends. Mule deer inhabit forests, grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, and deserts.
Typically, their diet consists of leaves, twigs, seeds, and berries but they can consume vegetation from a wide range of habitats since they move into varying elevations during different seasons.
Mule deer create their beds in areas of shrubs and grasses, leaving a flattened area in the earth.
Elk are found in North America and Asia. If you’ve ever seen one, you know just how giant they are.
Although they’re not as big as moose, they certainly will make you feel like you’re in a different world!
Elk live in forests, shrublands, and grasslands, and are typically seen in mountainous areas of high elevation.
Elk are mostly found in the Rocky Mountains where their diet consists of shrubs, tree shoots, grasses, and shrubs. Now as to where they decide to make their beds, elk take refuge and rest in thick and heavily wooded areas.
Moose are found in the Arctic Circle, northern North America, Europe, and Asia. They are also the largest animal in the cervids. Moose vary drastically by height and weight, which is directly due to the area conditions in which they are found.
Typically moose inhabit forests and inland wetlands. Despite their large size, their diet consists mainly of vegetation of trees, shrubs, and other aquatic plants.
Now, you may be thinking aquatic plants? That can’t be right! Well actually, moose commonly feed on submerged aquatic vegetation in rivers and lakes. They can even dive for up to 50 seconds to feed on the vegetation underneath the water!
Reindeer are known to inhabit the Arctic, specifically Arctic North America, in places such as Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Europe and Asia.
Interestingly, reindeer are referred to as such in Europe, and reindeer are usually referred to as caribou in the wild, in North America.
Reindeer live in forests and grasslands and feed on lichen, sedges, herbaceous flowering plants, grasses, and shrubs. Unlike all of the other deer species, reindeer are the only species where male and female deer grow antlers!
That’s A Wrap!
Thanks for sticking around and learning exactly where deer go and live during the day!
Let’s recap what we learned about the deer family today, and where exactly they go and live during the day.
The deer we all know and love are part of the Cervidae family. This family includes roughly 50 species of cervids. Every species of cervid grows antlers, except for the Chinese water deer.
Cervids are hoofed ruminant mammals that chew their food and regurgitate it to form cud. You may have seen this with other ruminants such as sheep, cows, and goats, which are just a few examples. Cervids even include caribou, moose, and elk, to name a few!
Deer are not nocturnal but are what is called crepuscular, meaning that they emerge during the twilight hours. But, deer can also be quite active during the day. When deer aren’t foraging for food, they sleep and hide in their bedding area.
Deer are most active during sunset and sunrise, the twilight hours. Even throughout the year as seasons change, although their activity times fluctuate, it still tends to be around dusk and dawn.
Deer travel in herds during the day they are typically foraging on vegetation, grasses, shrubs, and leaves.
Additionally, deer are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica! Deer can live in almost every biome of the world including tundra, taiga, deserts, grasslands, chaparral, forests, rainforests, scrub forests, mountains, wetlands, and suburban habitats!
While we threw a few links about, you can check out our article on using vinegar to repel deer if none of the other options seemed great!
We went over some of the deer species that you’ll see in North America, which consists of:
- White-Tailed Deer
- Mule Deer
Most deer are shy and like to stay out of sight. They prefer thick shrubs, forests, and woodlands to make their home. Because deer are prey animals, they prefer to sleep in heavy cover. This way they are secure and camouflaged.
Deer are a keystone species, which means that they can directly alter the ecosystem and the lives of other plants and animals. Contrary to popular belief, although deer destroy some populations of plants, they actually can increase biodiversity.
As we mentioned, as long as deer populations are maintained and aren’t allowed to overpopulate, they are incredibly beneficial. As a result of the overpopulation of deer, non-native, or invasive species are now competing significantly less with other surrounding plants, leading to a direct increase in their growth.
As a keystone species, hopefully, it’s now more apparent to see the benefits of deer populations being maintained as well as the issues if deer populations are allowed to overpopulate.
We hope you learned some surprising facts about deer!
Atle Mysterud, William Ryan Easterday, Vetle Malmer Stigum, Anders Bjørnsgaard Aas, Erling L. Meisingset, Hildegunn Viljugrein. Contrasting emergence of Lyme disease across ecosystems. Nature Communications, 2016; 7: 11882 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms11882
Clements, C. D., & Young, J. A. (1997). A viewpoint: rangeland health and mule deer habitat. Rangeland Ecology & Management/Journal of Range Management Archives, 50(2), 129-138.
Cook-Patton, Susan C., Marina LaForgia, and John D. Parker. “Positive interactions between herbivores and plant diversity shape forest regeneration.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281.1783 (2014): 20140261.
Fulbright, Timothy Edward, and José Alfonso Ortega-Santos. White-tailed deer habitat: ecology and management on rangelands. Texas A&M University Press, 2013.
Pauley, G. R., Peek, J. M., & Zager, P. (1993). Predicting white-tailed deer habitat use in northern Idaho. The Journal of wildlife management, 904-913.
Pierce, Becky M., R. Terry Bowyer, and Vernon C. Bleich. “Habitat selection by mule deer: forage benefits or risk of predation?.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 68.3 (2004): 533-541.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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