deer in the woods
November 28, 2023

White-tailed deer can be found throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but they are most often spotted in places with open fields like Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley. It’s not uncommon to see these amazing animals while you are driving through the Smoky Mountains or hiking along a trail. Here are 7 interesting facts about Smoky Mountain white-tailed deer that you probably didn’t know.

1. White-Tailed Deer Have Great Senses of Hearing and Smell.

close up of white-tailed deer

All of the white-tailed deer’s senses work really well; however, their sense of hearing and sense of smell are especially impressive. White-tailed deer can move their ears to face different directions, allowing them to hear all around them without turning their head. Their ears can hear frequencies higher than what humans can hear. White-tailed deer have a great sense of smell, too. They can pick up the scent of predators from far in the distance. They will lick their noses to keep them moist, which makes odors stick to them to improve their ability to smell.

2. Their Eyes Are on the Sides of Their Heads.

The white-tailed deer has eyes on the sides of its head instead of in the front. This provides the deer with a wider field of vision so they can see 310 degrees around themselves. White-tailed deer have a much better sense of vision at night than during the day, which allows them to see during their feeding time as well as escape from predators who are most active after dark.

3. Fawns Have Natural Camouflage.

white-tailed deer fawn standing in meadow

In the Smoky Mountains, white-tailed deer give birth to their fawns typically around late June. To protect themselves from predators, fawns are born with white spots that provide camouflage. The white spots help them blend in with the sun-speckled ground. Fawns typically lose these spots around 90 to 120 days old.

4. White-Tailed Deer Wag Their Tails When Startled.

Because dogs wag their tails when happy, it’s easy to assume a deer wagging its tail must also mean it is happy. However, white-tailed deer do the opposite. When a white-tailed deer wags its tail, that means it is startled. These are naturally very skittish and nervous animals, and they express their anxiety with tail wagging.

5. They Can Run Fast and Jump High.

white-tailed deer jumping over fence in Cades Cove

White-tailed deer are known for their speed and agility. This animal can run anywhere from 30 to 40 miles per hour at top speed. The white-tailed deer also has great jumping abilities and can leap up to 8 feet high. This deer isn’t just fast on land, either. White-tailed deer are excellent swimmers and can swim up to 13 miles per hour. These abilities allow this animal to escape predators and reach new places to forage for food.

6. White-Tailed Deer Are Crepuscular.

White-tailed deer are most active at twilight and just before dawn. The term for this is crepuscular. This is true for most of the year, but may change if the temperature drops. When it gets cold, white-tailed deer will shift their active hours to midday.

7. Their Feeding Habits Change with the Seasons.

white-tailed deer grazing in the woods

White-tailed deer are herbivores and will eat virtually any plant available. In spring and summer, these animals graze on grass in open fields. When the colder months arrive and lush vegetation becomes less available, they will go deeper into the forest and adapt to eating twigs and bark if necessary.

Spotting Wildlife in the Smoky Mountains

White-tailed deer are a popular type of wildlife in the Smoky Mountains. Many people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with the goal of seeing a variety of wildlife. If you want to see white-tailed deer and other types of wildlife during your visit, check out this guide to spotting wildlife in the national park to increase your chances of seeing these incredible creatures!