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How Many Deer in a Herd? (More Than You Think!)

The number of deer in a herd usually varies from place to place. The numbers may vary between forty to thousands of deer in one herd depending on the availability of food. 

A small herd of deer

Deer are commonly seen to travel in two groups. One made of does and their fawn while the other is made of bucks. The herd of bucks usually only has about 6 members.

The doe herd is usually led by a dominant doe. This matriarchal female is in charge of the herd and warns other members when danger is nearby. She does this by either snorting it stamping her front hooves. 

What is a Herd?

According to the Oxford dictionary, a herd is a group of animals, especially hoofed animals that live together or are kept together as a livestock.

Various animals move in herds. These include deer, cattle, elephant, antelopes and many more. The herd moves together to search for food and water. They also offer protection to fellow herd members against predators. 

Each herd is led by either a dominant male or female. The work of the leading animal is to lead the rest of the herd to food and water, and also alert herd members when danger approaches.

They are also responsible to teach herd members basic survival skills to help them thrive in the wild. Each herd consists of mothers and their young.

While feeding it’s common to see the suckling does placed in the middle of the herd where they are more protected from predators. The rest of the members are instinctually driven to protect the young to ensure the continuity of the herd.

How Many Fawns in a Deer Herd?

The number of fawns depends on the number of doe in the herd. The number might range from between 40-70 during breeding season.

A doe usually gives birth to one or two fawn at a given time. The buck usually takes no responsibility in raising the young and leaves this responsibility solely to the females. White-tailed deer normally mate in fall, between October and December. 

It is not uncommon to find fawn curled up alone in the forest. This however does not mean that they are orphaned. The mother might just left the fawn hidden to go feed. It is highly likely that the mother is around and might attack if it seems that her young is in danger.

The fawn are usually well camouflaged to blend in with the rest of the forest vegetation. They also don’t usually emit a scent. Fawn are also known to stay completely still until their mothers return. This is particularly helpful to protect them against predators.

Read More: Can Deer Attack Humans?

How Big is a Herd of Caribou?

According to research, the largest Caribou herd in Alaska is the western arctic herd that has about 325,000 members. 

Compared to other deer species, caribou are fairly large. The bulls weight ranges between 159-182 kg while the cows range from 80-120 kg. During reproduction the cows are known to produce one calf at a time.

Caribou are mostly found in the cold areas of Alaska and Canada. They have various adaptations to be able to survive in these extreme conditions.

They have large concave hooves that spread when walking to help them wade through thick snow and soft vegetation. They also grow large antlers that they use to protect themselves against predators, and thick coats to protect them against the cold temperatures.

Their main predators are wolves and bear. It is common to see their population decline when predator numbers soar. Indigenous people of Alaska have also been known to depend on caribou as a means of livelihood.

Caribou and reindeer are often confused as two different species. This is however not the case as reindeer is mostly used to refer to the domesticated or semi-domesticated version of the same. 

Read More: Can Deer be Domesticated?

A herd of caribou
The largest caribou herd in Alaska contains over 325,000 animals

Why do Deer Live in Herds?

Animals live in groups to help them survive. Forming groups increases their chance if survival as they work together as a unit to conquer obstacles. 

Deer have a much better chance of survival while in herds. Firstly, there is a lesser chance to be caught off guard by predators. While one of the deer feeds others are in the lookout for any approaching danger.

The latter alerts the rest of the herd if anything threatening approaches the herd and they are able to react appropriately.

Deer that live in groups are also seen to be healthier. This is because with a larger group as potential targets to predation individuals don’t have to be extremely vigilant.

This means that they can concentrate more on their feeding because they will be alerted in case of anything. Having multiple look outs means that others can be off duty and feed.

Disadvantages of Living in Herds for Deer

Predators are attracted to large herds of animals. This is because of the availability of weak links in the herd that are easy to hunt and kill. 

It is common to see wolves track down herds of deer for food. Herds cannot hide their movements and are easy to track. The more the animals the more overwhelming their scent. This makes it easier for the wolves to hunt them down. 

The more the animals also means there are more animals to feed. This is especially a problem when food is scarce. This leads to mass starvation as most of the food is consumed and very little remain.

There is also the risk of diseases associated with living in a large herd. When one animal in the herd gets sick it is very easy for the disease to spread throughout the herd. Chronic diseases have been known to wipe out entire herds.

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Conclusion

Deer are mostly found in groups. The groups have a hierarchy of dominance with one leader. Herds are important to the survival of an individual as they look for food together and alert each other of approaching danger. 

Herds however have a downside as they attract predators. They also promote competition for food when it is scarce. There is also the risk if diseases spreading when one animal is infected.

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