No, deer do hibernate! Hibernation is a process of inactivity and lowered metabolism that some animals undergo during the winter months. Although deer do not hibernate, they may adopt a similar strategy of inactivity called “torpor” to help them survive during periods of extreme cold or food scarcity.
What’s The Difference Between Hibernation and Torpor?
Torpor is a short-term, partial hibernation where an animal’s body temperature and metabolism are reduced for a period of days or weeks. Unlike true hibernators, animals in torpor do not experience the extended periods of inactivity and can readily return to their normal state.
Deer enter into a state of torpor during harsh winter conditions when food is scarce. Their body temperature and metabolism decrease, allowing them to conserve energy. Although they remain alert and can move if necessary, deer in torpor do not eat, drink, or urinate for extended periods of time.
When conditions improve and food becomes more available, deer will return to their normal state and resume their normal activities.
What Do Deer Eat During Winter?
Deer are browsers, meaning that they feed on a variety of plants. In winter, their diet consists mostly of twigs, buds, and evergreen needles. Deer will also eat acorns, fruit, and other mast (seeds, nuts, and fruits) when available. When food is scarce, deer may visit agricultural fields to forage on crops such as corn, wheat, and soybeans.
How Do Deer Survive the Winter?
Deer have several adaptations that help them survive the winter months. Their thick fur coats keep them warm in cold weather and their hooves are well-suited for walking on snow. Deer also have a good sense of smell, which helps them find food, and their long legs help them travel long distances in search of food.