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The Florida White Tailed Deer (Odocailes Virginia) have been roaming through the state of Florida for hundreds of years and their numbers have gone up and down depending on the number of animals killed for sport and the regulations created by the state of Florida to protect this species. They are an important animal for the Florida Panther because they are their main source of food. The deer population declined rapidly in Florida especially during the rapid population and urban growth of Florida during the 20th century. The number of deer fell to around 20,000 in the 1930’s. The Florida Game and Fresh water Fish Game Commission came to their rescue by limiting the amount of hunting for deer by sportsman. Deer populations can increase to large enough numbers that states develop deer hunting seasons to regulate their numbers. Deer are probably the number one game hunted in North America with over $50 Billion dollars spent annually by sportsman. During a recent trip to Long Island in New York State, I saw more deer roaming through farm land and peoples yards than I have ever seen before. Homeowners had to actually build cages and fences to protect their shrubs and gardens from being foraged upon by deer. Deer can also be a health hazard because they carry a tick borne illness.
The exhibit shown above at the Calusa Nature Center shows a White tailed Deer in its native Florida habitat. I found some facts about the deer interesting regarding their stomachs and feet. Deer’s are ruminants like cows which means they have a 4 chambered stomach, each with a specific function and they can eat something and digest it later when they are under cover. The 3rd and 4th toes of each foot or hooves support the entire weight of the deer. Only males grow antlers except for 1 in 10,000 females. The Univ. of Florida Dept of Food and Agricultural Sciences has some additional information about this animal.