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#3185073 - 07/27/09 06:50 PM 17 Sub-species of Whitetails
ltppowell Offline
Campfire Oracle

Registered: 10/12/04
Posts: 33842
Loc: SE Texas

I didn't know this until recently. I've only hunted them 35 years. The Avery Island subspecies is our primary target.

Whitetail Sub-Species and Distribution:

Distribution and Travel:

Whitetail deer generally inhabit forest, forest edges, and brushy areas from the southern edge of the coniferous forest in Canada to the southern border of the United States and into Mexico. They are absent, in most part, from the drier regions of the west but when present they inhabit the stream bottoms. The latest figures that I can find for 1974 has our Whitetail population estimated at 25 million. Those numbers have greatly increased since then.

Whitetail deer have a home range, usually one square mile. Though bucks extend beyond that during the rutting season searching far and wide for receptive does. This however is not to be confused as a migration but a seasonal expansion of range. However by 1870, lumbermen had invaded much of the forests creating a diverse variety of underbrush and saplings. Excellent food and habitat for whitetail deer. This event caused deer to move to these areas in large numbers. It is the only documented case of migration in whitetails.

I've hunted them for almost forty years and didn't now this until recently. I found it most interesting. The Avery Island sub-species is our primary target. There is a lot of info on this out there.


Taxonomy is the classification of living things.I want go into the complex description of Taxonomy but I will discribe the Virginia Whitetail (Odocoileus Virginanus) , it's sub-species and where they range.

1. The Virginia whitetail, Odocoileus virginianus virginianus, is the prototype of all whitetail deer. Its range includes Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. This is a moderately large deer with fairly heavy antlers. It is hunted in all of the states it inhabits, and each state has a good deer population. It has a widely diversified habitat, varying from coastal marshes, swamplands, and pinelands to the "balds" atop the Great Smokey Mountains.

2. The northern woodland whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus borealis, is the largest and generally the darkest in coloration. It also has the largest range, being found in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, and a portion,of Manitoba. More whitetails of this subspecies are hunted than any other. Some 541,000 deer were legally taken from the region of the borealis subspecies in 1974. This area has also produced half a dozen of the top twenty record whitetail heads listed in the Boone and Crockett Club's official records book, North American Big Game. Including the long standing record harvested by Jim Jordan in Wisconsin.

3. The Dakota whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus docotensis, is another very large deer, about equaling the northern whitetail in weight . This subspecies has produced even more of the high-ranking trophy heads than the borealis race. The range covers North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, @ and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Dakota bucks have heavy, fairly widespread antlers. The winter coat is a little paler than that of borealis. This is a deer of the breaks. Its home is in the timbered coulees, gullies, draws, and river and stream bottoms that cut through the prairies.

4. The Northwest whitetail, Odocoileus virginianus ochrourus, is also a large deer. It inhabits parts of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The biggest whitetail I ever saw was in Glacier National Park. It could have been either this subspecies or a Dakota. The two races intergrade in that area. This subspecies has very widespread antlers and a winter coat of relatively pale cinnamon-brown.

5. The range of the Columbian whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus leucurus, has been so greatly reduced that most of these deer are now found only on th 'e Federal Columbian White-tailed Deer Refuge, on the Columbian River near Cathiamet, Washington. The subspecies formerly ranged along the Pacific coast in Washington and Oregon, spreading eastward to intergrade with the Northwest whitetail. The Columbian whitetail is not hunted as it is now on the endangered-animal list.

6. The Coues, or Arizona whitetail, Odocoileus virginianus couesi, is a small variety. At one time it was thought to be a distinct species but more recent research has relegated it to the status of subspecies. It has larger ears and tail in relation to its body size than most whitetails, This deer is found in the dry, desert regions of southeastern California, southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and on down into Old Mexico. The Coues is apparently isolated from areas where it could intergrade with the Texas whitetail but in the southern part of its range it probably intergrades with several Mexican subspecies. Even in Arizona the Coues whitetails are more or less isolated in the mountainous areas that rise above the desert, such as the Chiricahua and Huachuca Mountains. Arizona estimates it has about 25,000 Coues deer but does not give any harvest figures. New Mexico has a hunting season for this deer but gives neither a population estimate nor the hunter's take. The Coues deer has its own classification in the Boone and Crockett Club, dating back to when it was considered a distinct species. From the hunter's point of view, the separate classification remains legitimate since the little Coues deer has a light "rack," or antlers. A trophy that is outstanding by Coues standards could hardly compete with a trophy northern or Dakota whitetail.

7. The Texas whitetail, Odocoileus virginianus texanus, is found in western Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, southeastern Colorado, eastern New Mexico, and the northern portion of Old Mexico. Everything about Texas is big, even its population of whitetail deer. Texas has four whitetail subspecies, of which the most abundant is the Texas whitetail. Its body is much smaller than that of the more northerly deer but it is the largest of the southern forms. The antlers are slender but widespread and there are several record heads among the top twenty-five.

8. The Carmen Mountains whitetail, Odocoileus virginianus corminis, is a small deer found in the Big Bend region of Texas. Its range is limited to the Carmen Mountains on both sides of the Rio Grande. Not many of these deer are hunted because most of their range falls within the boundaries of Big Bend National Park, where hunting is prohibited. Here is a good example of isolation. A buffer strip of semi-desert, inhabited by mule deer, separates this subspecies from the Texas whitetail and prevents intergrading.

9.The range of the Avery Island whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus mcilhennyi, stretches along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana. This is the deer of the Texas Big Thicket Country. It is a large one with a dark, brownish winter coat, and it intergrades with the whitetail subspecies found to the west, north and east.

10. The Kansas whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus macrourus, is the fourth subspecies occurring in Texas. Found in eastern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana, it is a large deer with heavy main antler beams and short tines. Several deer of this type are listed among the top 25 heads.

11. The Bull's Island whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus tourinsulae, is an isolated and very limited race of whitetail deer, found only on Bull's Island, South Carolina.

12. The Hunting Island whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus venotorius, is another of South Carolina's minor variations, found only on Hunting Island.

13. The Hilton Head Island whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus hiltonensis, is still another South Carolinian variation, limited to Hilton Head Island.

14. The Blackbeard Island whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus nigribarbis, is found only on the Georgian Islands of Blackbeard and Sapelo' All of those last four subspecies are medium-sized deer with fairly small antlers that are heavily ridged or wrinkled at the base. The islands they inhabit are far enough out in the ocean to prevent intergrading with mainland subspecies or with one another. I believe that hunting is currently allowed on all of these islands.

15. The Florida whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus seminolus, is a good-sized deer with a good rack. Some have antlers as impressive as the borealis though the spread is not as wide. The race is the deer of the Everglades.

16. The Florida coastal whitetail,Odocoileus virginianus osceola, is found in the Florida panhandle, southern Alabama, and Mississippi. It is not as large as the Florida or the Virginia whitetail but it intergrades with both.

17. The Florida Key deer, Odocoileus virginianus clovium, is the smallest of our native deer. No hunting is allowed for this subspecies, which is on the endangered-animal list. By 1949, the Key deer population had plummeted to an all-time low of thirty individuals. This reduction was brought about mainly by habitat destruction, fires, hurricanes, automobile kills, and hunting. The Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1953. With the protection thus provided, the deer population has crept back up to about three hundred. Today the automobile is the number-one killer, as the highway linking the Florida Keys passes through the center of the range.

"If you're a grown up making 9 an hour you are probably overpaid".

RV 728 BP
#3185092 - 07/27/09 06:59 PM Re: 17 Sub-species of Whitetails [Re: ltppowell]
JPro Offline
Campfire Outfitter

Registered: 12/13/04
Posts: 9975
Loc: Northern Louisiana
We have subspecies down here too. Notable varieties include the "toolbox" deer, which allows for covert transport so that your buddies won't give you perpetual hell. We also see a few "tailgate" deer as well. These are the ones that go rancid from driving all over town while the owner poses for photos and rubs his victory in the faces of hunting partners.
I cannot spell, just so you know.....

#3185430 - 07/27/09 09:38 PM Re: 17 Sub-species of Whitetails [Re: JPro]
exbiologist Offline
Campfire Tracker

Registered: 02/11/09
Posts: 5120
Loc: Colorado
I've thought hard about trying to "collect the whole set", but instead have settled on taking a deer in every state(except Hawaii, but I may kill some sort of exotic there sometime so I don't have a disclaimer). Also, not all taxonomists agree with all the minor sub species variations. The argument is called lumpers vs splitters and it doesn't just pertain to deer, but I'd imagine DNA testing would poo-poo some of the subspecies that don't have very specific boundaries, such as islands.
"For some unfortunates, poisoned by city sidewalks ... the horn of the hunter never winds at all" Robert Ruark, The Horn of the Hunter

#3186256 - 07/28/09 02:29 AM Re: 17 Sub-species of Whitetails [Re: exbiologist]
cbass Offline
Campfire Regular

Registered: 04/12/06
Posts: 275
Loc: Neosho, Mo
I remember reading about the sub-species in The Deer of North America by Leonard Lee Rue III. The book was printed in 1978 it was very informative. It may be very out of date now however, I don't know.

#3186280 - 07/28/09 02:38 AM Re: 17 Sub-species of Whitetails [Re: exbiologist]
Gadfly Offline
Campfire Regular

Registered: 10/25/05
Posts: 1424
Loc: Central Highlands
I'd be surprised if there were many "pure" sub-species left in the central U.S., given that the re-introduction efforts in the 1950's gathered deer from several different areas for re-stocking.

In the Ouachita mountains, most of the stocker deer came from south and central Texas. There was also a small remnant of native whitetails (probably Kansas spp.). Physically, they are noticeably different, with the "kansas" deer having a much longer frame and legs and darker coloration than the "texas" deer of the same age class. The "kansas" bucks, in general have heavier, taller racks, with good mass carried all the way to the end of the tines, the Texas bucks have good width, but not much mass, and here, at least, lack the tine length they are known for in Texas. Of course, both subspecies have been interbreeding, but even after 50 years there are populations that are still quite distinct.
ego operor non tutela

#3187066 - 07/28/09 02:50 PM Re: 17 Sub-species of Whitetails [Re: Gadfly]
Reloader7RM Offline
Campfire Tracker

Registered: 09/20/05
Posts: 5863
Loc: NW La.
I bet it would be a PITA to get a Grand Slam smile


#3187148 - 07/28/09 03:24 PM Re: 17 Sub-species of Whitetails [Re: Reloader7RM]

Registered: 06/13/09
Posts: 136
I remember hearing that there were 27 sub species, but that might have been wrong.

#3187330 - 07/28/09 04:48 PM Re: 17 Sub-species of Whitetails [Re: CAMONICK]
mudhen Online   content
Campfire Outfitter

Registered: 05/30/05
Posts: 9789
Loc: Boot Heel of New Mexico
The 27 number includes all of the Mexican and Central American "subspecies". Most of the divisions cited in the original post were made on the basis of small differences a few highly variable physical characters. Recent genetic work using DNA has basically found little or no difference between many of these putative subspecies. In addition, as Gadfly notes, whitetails have been moved all over the United States to restore extirpated populations and augment small remnant populations such as those he mentioned in the Ouchitas. Prior to the CWD outbreaks, whitetails from Texas were probably exported to just about every state in the U.S. that originally had whitetails.

Some ecotypes such as the Coues whitetail (which includes the Del Carmen whitetails), Columbian whitetails and the little key deer in Florida are somewhat genetically distinct from other populations from which they are geographically isolated.

Genetic studies to date have shown that most "subspecies" of whitetails exhibit gradual, continuous genetic variation across the so-called range boundaries. Deer in the center of one subspecies range may look a little different from deer in the center of an adjacent one, but in the absence of geographic isolation, there is no clear line of demarcation between the two.

Much the same situation has been found in mule deer to date. For instance, the desert mule deer is not really genetically distinct from Rocky Mountain mule deer. The physical differences that we observe result from different environments acting on what is essentially the same gene pool.
Young at heart, slightly older in most other places...

#3187372 - 07/28/09 05:23 PM Re: 17 Sub-species of Whitetails [Re: mudhen]
goose2044 Offline
Campfire Regular

Registered: 01/13/07
Posts: 756
Loc: Medford, OR
The info on the #5 animal, the Columbian White Tail, is a little out-of-date. It was removed from the ESL almost 10 years ago, and has been hunted in Southern Oregon since 2004, IIRC. It's genetic makeup isn't quite what they once thought it to be. It can't breed with other deer species. It was common belief for many decades that the the Blacktail deer was just out numbering and out breeding or crossbreeding the Columbian White Tail deer, leading to it's decline and becoming an Endagered Species. Now, thanks to a better understanding of this species, along with 30 plus years of protection, the population is large enough to allow hunting, though the tag is through a limited draw.

#3198419 - 08/02/09 03:41 AM Re: 17 Sub-species of Whitetails [Re: goose2044]
JohnMoses Offline
Campfire Kahuna

Registered: 05/23/09
Posts: 18242
Loc: Mississippi
The deer brought in by the game dept. in SW Mississippi during the 30's were from Michigan.

There has always been a difference in body size and antler mass compared with other whitetails found throughout the state.

So I guess we'd have a mix of the Virginia and Northern species.

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