skip to main content

Solano County Office of Education

Solano County Office of Education

The most numerous deer in California are Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), which are common in Solano County.
A male deer is called a stag or buck.
A female deer is called a doe. 
A young deer is called a fawn or calf.


The most notable characteristic of Columbian black-tailed deer is the tail that is almost entirely black. The tails of other sub-species of mule deer all have areas of white in them. Black-tailed deer have dark bellies compared to other species or subspecies. Bucks have antlers with a main beam that forks rather than stemming from one main tine. Deer have excellent sight and smell. Their large ears can move independently of each other and pick up any sounds that may signal danger.
tail variations of California deer CDFW


Mating generally occurs during or near the month of November. Roughly 200 days later, females give birth to one, two or three spotted fawns. Immediately after birth, mothers hide their fawns. The fawns remain in these hiding places until they are able to run well.  Their spotted coloration and minimal scent helps hide them from predators. As they grow stronger their spots fade away. 


Columbian black-tailed deer feeding habits generally follow seasonal patterns according to the type and quantity of food available. They have been known to browse grasses, tender shoots on various shrubs and trees, berries, acorns, lichen, toyon, and even poison oak. 


deer tracks
a deer standing in a field
deer distribution in California
Columbian black-tailed deer (orange above) range throughout the coastal mountains from Oregon roughly to Santa Barbara, and along the west slope of the Cascade-Sierra Nevada range to Calaveras County, and south along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to Mariposa County.



Each year, many people enjoy feeding deer. This is not healthy for them, and it is illegal in California. Artificial feeding causes stomach problems and may encourage spread of parasites and disease. Deer can learn to depend on handouts rather than foraging for themselves on natural plant foods. Feeding deer can also attract mountain lions into populated areas where conflict with humans and livestock may occur.
Deer with horns


Male deer grow and shed a set of antlers each year. They drop their antlers between January and March after mating season, known as the rut. During the early summer, new antlers are covered with a fuzzy skin or "velvet". While in velvet, the antlers grow externally through a build-up of calcium at the tip of each point. In this way, antlers differ from horns which grow internally and are permanent.
discarded deer antler


Deer communicate in part with scent and pheromones from several glands located on the lower legs. The metatarsal (outside of lower leg) produces an alarm scent, the tarsal (inside of hock) serves for mutual recognition and the interdigital (between the toes) leave a scent trail when deer travel.
deer gland identification