White-Tailed Deer Overpopulation in the United States

If you live in the suburbs of the Northeastern US like I do, on any given day you might be able to look out your window and see a herd of deer like the one pictured above. In my neighborhood in particular, I am surprised if a day goes by where I don’t see any.

In 1930 the US white-tailed deer population was down to about 300,000. Today, estimates of how many there are range as high as about 30 million. That’s a 1,000-fold increase in less than 100 years.

What would an ideal number of white-tailed deer be in the US? Scientists estimate the average carrying capacity is about 8 deer per kilometer. The current average? Up to 100 deer per kilometer.

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Some folks seem to think that taxidermy is a weird magical form of art which preserves the meat and bones of the animal along with the skin itself. This is not the case. Taxidermy is, in a most basic manner of explanation, a process that involves a tanned hide, a foam form, some clay, a touch of paint, and some glue. 

Above is a taxidermy form which is ready to have the deer’s cape mounted to it. No form is ever completely anatomically accurate straight from the supply company, nor does every deer have the same facial features. So clay is used to make the cape fit the form in the most realistic manner possible wile likewise being artistically sculpted to give the animal its expression and overall ‘personality’. This deer has an aggressive pose with ears back and eyes wary. 

Once modification to the form and clay-work is complete, the whole thing is coated in hide paste. This special glue holds the wet leather of the cape in place while everything dries, eliminating the need for excessive pinning. Pins are generally used around the eyes and nose to help shape the leather and make it hold that position as it dries. 

When the drying is complete and the pins are removed, it’s time for finishing work. This includes detailing like painting the eyes, nose, and lips, and adding mod podge to the nosepad to give it a 'wet’ shiny look. 

The finished product is a very beautiful and realistic representation of the animal. Needless to say, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds, and of course I’ve left a few steps out (like carding the ears and whatnot) but this should give you a better basic idea as to what taxidermy actually is, and put an end to the stupid myths of “those are the animal’s real eyes!” and “Don’t touch it or you’ll get a disease!" 


Photos and mount by Eddie Boutwell.


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus

  1. The summer coat and body changes of most of the North American white tails are very similar. The summer coat is short and reddish brown, and the necks of males are slender. The winter coats are thicker, brownish grey, and the neck of males are thickened up. [x] [x]
  2. Cous (O.v. couesi) are desert dwelling deer, so are much smaller and paler in color than ones from colder climates. This male is out of the velvet stage, and is still a light tan. [x]
  3. These Peruvian (O.v. peruvianus) are a small subspecies, though larger than other white-tails in South American, are grey in color with darker foreheads. [x]
  4. The endangered Key (O.v. clavium)  deer are the smallest of all the white-tails, and big males rarely weight more than a 100 pounds, easily half the size of northern subspecies. This reddish male, like most Keys, is not particularly afraid of humans. [x]
  5. A melanistic buck, it’s uppersides dark, and lighter tan belly. Melanism is much less common than other pigment conditions in this species. [x]
  6. Piebald deer come in a variety of white to color ratios. This buck has a broad white blaze, neck, belly, and socks. [x]
  7. An abnormal Venezuelan (O.v. gymnotis doe, probably leucistic, that is an overall beige color rather than white. Compare with the normal red buck in the background. [x]
  8. A leucistic buck with traces of light tan on his back.[x]
  9. A young albino doe and friend. [x
  10. Bergmann’s rule applies heavily to this species. In general, the closer to the equator, the smaller the deer and the less impressive the antlers. Compare the skull and rack of a Northern buck to the tropical Nicaraguan. [x]