Different species of deer can be found in just about all corners of the Earth, but what biome do they actually live in?
Deer can be found in 5 different biomes around the world, which are the temperate, tundra, taiga, desert, and tropical biomes. The main deer species found in these biomes will be either White-tailed Deer, Reindeer/Caribou, Moose, Mule Deer, or Marsh Deer.
There are over 40 different species of deer found around the world and they can greatly vary in their size, appearance, and natural habitat. This makes deer an incredibly dynamic and diverse species that can live in a number of different biomes. With that being said, while different types of deer can be found all over the Earth, it is important to note that not all deer species are compatible with each type of biome. These deer species have evolved in their biomes over hundreds of thousands of years and have adapted to their local environment, which means that they are completely dependent on their biome for survival. To help you understand this further, we are going to break down each biome that deer can be found in and the species most commonly associated with each region.
After years of working as an environmental scientist, I have had an extensive amount of experience studying the different types of deer species that inhabit our planet. Through my research, I have been able to determine all of the different biomes that deer species can be found in.
It’s easy to forget just how many different species of deer exist on our planet. The reason for this is that here in the United States, we generally only see a couple of different types of deer due to our limited number of biomes across the majority of the country. The most common deer that we do see are found in woodland areas, where they roam our national and state parks around the country.
However, there are many different types of deer that are much rarer to see that we commonly overlook - or even mistake for another species altogether. This is one of the reasons why many people are surprised to find out that there are over 40 different types of deer species on our planet. In fact, deer can naturally be found in just about every location on Earth and they roam every continent except for Antarctica.
A lot of places on our planet have healthy biomes that can adequately support a balanced population of deer. This can even be a problem for some regions where deer are actually overpopulated, which then turns this lovely creature into somewhat of a pest for human communities and even natural habitats. This usually occurs when the ecosystem of a biome has been disrupted and the population of predators in the area has either been put at risk or exterminated completely. The majority of the time this is caused directly by human impact through overhunting.
On the other hand, there are many biomes that deer are found in that are at great risk due to other types of human activity. There are a lot of environmental factors such as climate change and pollution which put entire biomes at risk, which jeopardizes the livelihoods of all of its inhabitants - including its deer population, which is why it has never been more important to protect the various biomes that are found around the world. To illustrate this further, we are going to take a closer look at each biome in detail.
Temperate Biome - White-tail Deer
The temperate biome is the most common biome that deer are found in within the United States. This biome can best be identified by characteristics such as woodland and shrubland areas that are full of vegetation.
The temperate biome is often described as a temperate forest, which serves as a biome that separates tropical regions and colder climates. This makes the temperate biome one of the most common on our planet with temperate forests making up more than a quarter of all forests on Earth. This number used to be even larger as Europe was once full of healthy natural temperate forests, but this biome has shrunk significantly in these regions due to massive amounts of overdevelopment. Nowadays, you can find temperate biomes predominantly in parts of North America, Northern Europe, Russia, China, Japan, as well as southern regions of South America.
The deer species that we most commonly see in the temperate biome are White-tail Deer, which are what we find throughout parts of the United States. The climate of the temperate biome is perfect for White-tail Deer, as the temperatures of these regions fluctuate depending on the time of year. The temperate biome has 4 seasons (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring), but the temperature stays within a balanced comfort level for the White-tail Deer. You can expect to get warm summers that are not too hot - followed by cold winters that do not drop to extreme freezing conditions.
White the temperate biome is full of thick beautiful forests, the White-tail Deer tends to feel much more comfortable being on the edge of forests, which have both grasslands and shrublands. This sort of environment makes it much easier for the White-tail Deer to detect predators and make calculated escapes when necessary. The White-tail Deer that roam the temperate biome rely on a variety of different plants for their survival such as twigs, berries, leaves, and nuts. However, the colder winter months do bring some challenges, as food sources are much more scarce, which results in White-tailed Deer needing to be much more resourceful to survive.
The average White-tail Deer living in the temperate biome can weigh as much as 100 lbs for fully grown males and roughly 75 lbs for a fully grown female.
Tundra Biome - Reindeer
The tundra biome is one of the fiercest and most uninhabitable biomes on the entire planet, which can make it very challenging for many species to survive here. While the animals that do live in the tundra biome are limited, one of the few that have found a way to withstand its harsh conditions is deer. With that being said, not just any deer can survive in the tundra. The tundra is so cold that most deer species simply do not have a thick enough coat to handle this biome, which is why Reindeer are the only deer species that are found here. While we are used to calling this deer species Reindeer, a much more recognized name for them is Caribou.
The tundra biome can only be found near the arctic regions of our planet, which are all on the far end of the northern hemisphere. In North America, Canada and Alaska are the only regions that are cold enough to be considered tundra, which are the only places on the continent where Reindeer can be found. Alternatively, Reindeer are also known to roam parts of Northern Europe in countries like Norway and Finland, as well as various parts of Northern Russia.
This biome is the coldest on Earth and is one of the most challenging for any kind of life to survive. However, Reindeer are more than equipped to handle the extreme cold of the tundra biome. This extreme cold not only makes it hard for animals to find food but also find drinking water. The tundra biome only gets only a couple of months of warmth throughout the year, it can make it very hard to have adequate access to drinking water. Given that the majority of the year of the tundra experiences freezing weather, many of the seasonal freshwater channels are unusable by Reindeer and other animals.
The temperature of the tundra biome is notoriously cold but this can fluctuate on an annual basis depending on how long the winter is. Typically, you can expect below-freezing conditions to last as long as 6 to even 10 months, which means that winter is the dominant season year around. This has resulted in a layer of frost within the ground floor of the tundra biome that is permanently frozen. This permafrost can make vegetation and various plant species incredibly difficult to grow, which greatly limits the amount of food that a Reindeer can count on throughout the year. The average temperature of the tundra biome during these harsh winter months can be as little as - 30 degrees Fahrenheit - with some winters being even colder.
In order for Reindeer to survive in the extreme conditions of the tundra biome, they have to be incredibly resourceful and strategic with how they source their food. The warmer months that are during the peak of summer are a magical time for Reindeer as they have access to so many different types of food such as herbs, grass, shrubs, and moss. However, the winter months are a different story - with options being very limited and food supplies being very scarce. The survival of this entire deer species is predominantly dependent on a type of moss called lichen, which can be dug up beneath the surface of the snow in some places. In addition, Reindeer are sometimes lucky enough to find various types of fungi during the winter months.
A unique characteristic of Reindeer is that both males and females are able to grow antlers, which is very uncommon for deer species around the globe. In fact, most Reindeer keep their antlers throughout the entire year, as this is their only means of defense within the tundra biome. Reindeer have the largest antlers of all deer species with males growing antlers as large as 50 inches in length and female deer growing them as large as 20 inches. You can expect an average Reindeer to weigh as much as 400 lbs when it is fully grown and females to weigh up to 250 lbs.
Taiga Biome - Moose
Much like the tundra biome, the taiga biome can also be very unforgiving. The conditions of this biome are slightly less harsh but are still merciless nonetheless, which is why the deer species that is primarily found in the taiga regions of our planet are Moose.
Many people mistakenly think that the Moose is its own species altogether and forget that it is technically part of the deer family. This is an easy misconception to make given the sheer size of the Moose, as they are huge! In fact, the Moose is the largest deer species that is alive today - with fully grown males that can weigh as much as 1,500 lbs and 1,100 lbs for females. Although Moose are fascinating to look at and are quite graceful in appearance, you do not want to get too close to this deer species, as they have been known to harm humans.
The Moose is a rare deer species to see compared to most others, as they are generally only found in remote areas of the taiga biome. When spotted in the wild, you will commonly see moose roaming the taiga woodlands, basking in rivers, or grazing in fields. The summer months of the taiga biome are relatively pleasant with temperatures staying moderately warm and comfortable for most life to thrive, but they are often showered with long periods of rain. It is during these cushy summer months that Moose are able to roam free and enjoy plentiful amounts of food, which range from things like leaves and plants found in freshwater.
However, the winter months of the taiga biome can often resemble some similar qualities as the tundra with temperatures staying at roughly 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the majority of the year. This can make it extremely challenging to find vegetated plants for the Moose to eat throughout the year, which results in the deer species needing to rely on desperate means for survival.
Desert Biome - Mule Deer
When we think of the desert, we can hardly imagine life surviving in this biome at all - except for a few cactuses and armadillos, which is why most people are surprised to find that deer are actually among the few species that are capable of living in this dry region. While the desert certainly does not get as cold as some of the extreme biomes of the north, it does experience heat that is just as merciless.
These sorts of harsh conditions mean that most deer species on the planet would not be able to tolerate the arid climate of the desert, as the coat of most deer is simply too thick. The deer that we do commonly find in this biome is the Mule Deer. The Mule Deer is a versatile deer species as it is able to withstand the extreme heat of the desert - yet at the same time have the capability of living in more woodland conditions that are considerably cooler. This means that the Mule Deer can actually be found in both the desert biome and the temperate biome. With that being said, just because the Mule Deer has this versatility does not mean that life for the species is easy, as Mule Deer need to be just as strategic and resourceful in their region to survive.
This deer species resembles many qualities of the White-tail Deer and can only be found in North America. In fact, the Mule Deer is commonly referred to as the Black-tail Deer, which can be found in parts of the American South West as well as some regions near the Rocky Mountains. They are not very large deer species with males weighing as much as 250 lbs and females weighing a bit less at 180 lbs. However, their weight can fluctuate depending on the season and their food intake.
While the Mule Deer is known to roam deserts, it generally does not inhabit completely lifeless deserts, as the animal needs to have some form of food in order to survive. A region that is classified as a desert but has adequate vegetation is the perfect place to find Mule Deer. However, Mule Deer tend to change their location throughout the year so that they can cope with the extreme conditions of the desert. This deer species is one of the only ones that have an annual migration pattern. While the migration is normally only 100 - 150 miles, this is still a crucial survival technique that the Mule Deer uses to cope with adverse conditions.
Tropical Biome - Marsh Deer
The last place on Earth that anybody would expect to find a deer is in the tropics. However, this incredible species has even found a way to survive in one of the most exotic places on the planet - the Amazon Rainforest. The Marsh Deer can commonly be found in tropical biomes that are scattered around Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, and Uruguay, which can be spotted by its golden brown fur, but this can change to a darker brown color when the climate gets cooler. The Marsh Deer is the most common species of deer found in South America.
If not for the fact that the Marsh Deer lives in the tropical biome, differentiating it from the Mule Deer can actually be a bit challenging, as they share some similar qualities. The Marsh Deer is an average-sized deer with males weighing roughly 275 lbs and females weighing about 180 lbs when they are fully grown. Just as the name suggests, the Marsh Deer spends a lot of its time in marsh-like environments, as this sort of area provides the animal with everything that it needs to survive.
While most people do not associate deer with being good swimmers, the Marsh Deer is very comfortable in the water and is able to maneuver itself through the marsh effortlessly. This is a perfect environment for the Marsh Deer to quickly react to oncoming predators so that it can make quick escapes. In addition, a lot of the vegetation found within the marsh is a perfect source of food for this tropical deer species, which makes the qualities of the marsh a win-win for the deer.
With that being said, Marsh Deer are very dependent on the qualities of their environment to survive. This can make it very challenging for the deer species to thrive if the conditions of the marsh are not ideal. There are situations where the habitat of the Marsh Deer is sabotaged due to natural factors within the biome, but the majority of the threats that this species experience comes from human impact. If the marsh experiences conditions such as extreme floods, then the deer species needs to adapt to its environment, which normally results in it spending more time on land. This sort of event generally forces the Marsh Deer to change its diet as well as its behavior so that it can survive in adverse conditions.
About THE AUTHOR
James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.Read More About James Parker