Understanding the habits of whitetail deer is understood by viewing them from a distance with binoculars.  However, looking closely at their anatomy, their habits can be understood further.

With skinny legs, small hooves, and large upper bodies, we expect deer to be terrible at swimming across large rivers and lakes.  Opening Facebook to check the White Buffalo Outdoors Facebook Page, I see more and more videos in my news feed of boaters rescuing deer from the water.  When the boat approaches, the deer appears frightened and starts swimming frantically in circles.  To save the animal from the water, the boaters act fast, grabbing the deer by the antlers and dragging it back to shore.  Many people commenting under the Facebook post are surprised by the deer swimming and hope the deer is saved.  But, does the deer really need help?

Likely, not.

The home range of a single deer is usually 650 acres.  Within this home range, many lakes and rivers get in the way, especially when a deer is escaping predators.  Over thousands of years, deer adapted to become great swimmers.  So, what makes deer powerful swimmers?

The Deer’s Hair

Yes, the hair!  Each individual hair on a deer is hollow, making deer incredibly buoyant when swimming.  Not only does the hollow hair make deer buoyant, it keeps them warm.  Body heat released from the deer gets trapped in their hair, keeping them warm on cool nights or after a cold swim!

Next time you see a deer swimming across a lake or river, know that it is likely trying to escape a threat.  Attempting to save a swimming deer and bringing it back to its original location will likely put the deer right back in danger.

To learn more about habits of whitetail deer, check out this article – 5 Tips to Prepare for the Deer Rut 

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Justin J. Lind

October 2019
White Buffalo Outdoors

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