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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Deer Me: Where to Sleep? (for the Week of Jan. 5, 2009)

January 5, 2009

Q. Dear Twig: Where do deer sleep during winter?


A. In two kinds of places. The choice depends on if it's daytime or nighttime. (I assume here a cold, snowy winter where the deer is. Are.)

At night, deer tend to sleep near coniferous ("kuh-NIFF-er-us") trees. (Coniferous trees you might know include pines, firs, spruces and hemlocks.) A usual spot is next to a trunk under thick, low, sheltering branches. The branches serve as a roof and a blanket. They keep out the wind, slow down how fast heat gets lost and help the deer save energy. A key for a deer to survive winter is to save energy.

During the day, deer sleep more in the open, away from deep, dark woods, a lot of times on a hill facing south or west. Why: To be in the sun. The sun's heat makes them warm. Or at least not as cold.

The technical term for both places is "bed sites." Deer may "bed" — lie down, sleep, or just hunker down and relax — at times throughout the day or night.

Long winter's nappily,


P.S. Ohio's native deer is the white-tailed deer. Out West, look for the mule deer. Also, mules.



Mules, but not mule deer, live in Ohio too of course. And also in many other places, such as "Hee Haw."

Subspecies of the mule deer (note: not a mule) are the Sitka deer (ditto) and black-tailed deer (ditto ditto). White-tailed subspecies are the Coues (said "cooze," "cows" or "coos," depending on who says it) deer and Florida Key deer.

Sources included "Winter Bed-site Selection by White-tailed Deer in Central Ontario," Journal of Wildlife Management, 1983.

Ohio State's experts on deer and wildlife management in general, but not mules, work in the School of Environment and Natural Resources, specifically in the Terrestrial Wildlife Ecology Laboratory. Check it and them out here:


About This:

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick" is a weekly feature for children (ages 9+; 4th grade reading level) about science, nature, farming and the environment. Online at

Brought to you by your scientific friends at The Ohio State University — specifically, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) ( and with Ohio State University Extension ( OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Written by Kurt Knebusch of OARDC and OSU Extension. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt at CommTech, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691;; (330) 263-3776.

Kurt Knebusch