In May 1995, President José María Figueres Olsen declared the ‘White-tailed deer’ (scientific name is Odocoileus virginianus) to be the National Symbol of Wildlife in Costa Rica. White-tailed deer are found as far north as the southern parts of Canada and as far south as northern South America, into Bolivia.
Oddly we cannot find the reasons for the selection of the deer as the symbol. Some environmentalists have attempted to have the National Wildlife Symbol replaced by the sloth, sea turtle, or the manatee. This has only served to create confusion.
Given Costa Rica’s penchant for choosing national symbols to honor the past, there is some irony in that their national symbol is facing a threat of extinction. In December 2012 the Costa Rican legislature voted unanimously to ban hunting in the Country. Costa Rica has an ongoing problem protecting deer, exotic cats, birds, marine life and reptiles from hunters, poachers and collectors. The penalty for illegal hunting is a jail sentence of up to 6 months and or a fine of up to USD $3,000.00.
Fortunately, the White-tail deer are known to be capable of recovering quickly, regenerating their numbers when conservation methods are allowed to work.
Costa Rica’s White-tailed deer are most commonly found in the Province of Guanacaste, on savannahs inside National Parks and conservation areas. The White-tailed deer have an average height of 4 feet tall at the shoulders, measure over 7 feet in length and weigh nearly 150 pounds (as a male) during summer months when fully grown. Larger species have been recorded further north, away from the equator, closer to the northern United States border with Canada. Up north they have recorded weights closer to 400 pounds. Like most other deer they are agile and fleet-footed, capable of maintaining speeds of 50 m.p.h. Adult deer’s coats are reddish-brown in springtime and will turn gray-brown as the season gets closer to winter. The underside of the deer’s tail is distinctively white and is used to signal other deer when something or someone approaches. They flash the tail, stomp their hooves, and pant loudly as a signal to others. A deer’s vision is dichromatic (seeing two colors only), they do not detect all the colors in the spectrum, orange or red are not seen by them. That is why hunters wear bright red safety gear in the woods, it draws attention to the hunter and does not frighten their prey.
The male deer, called a Buck, grows antlers that shed annually. Only one in several thousand females will grow antlers. The size of the antler is rated using a system of ‘Points’, a term that grades the size, the measurement of the antlers length, and thickness. The larger antlers are a good indication of the deer’s age and maturity. Another sign of its age is the length of the animal’s snout and a grayer coat color.
The White-tail deer’s diet consists of shoots, mushrooms, berries, leaves, grasses, legumes, and tasty crops such as the maize planted in farmer’s fields.
White-tail deer enjoy the mountains, tropical pine forest, the swamp-lands, and areas that offer shelter and protection. So the Rincon de la Vieja, is not an ideal habitat. They rarely travel outside of a one-square-mile area during their lifetime. Females and their fawns travel together until the fawns are ready to mate; males will fight each other for that privilege (mankind is not alone here).
Common predators of White-tail deer are the jaguar, the puma, and man of course. They are hunted for their meat, fur, and their antlers are used as trophies. Rapidly developing urban communities have encroached on the available natural domain of the White-tail. There is a concentration of them in protected national parks, especially in the dryer tropical forests of Guanacaste, rescue centers and zoos.
The Blue River Costa Rica Resort and Hot Springs is located on the fringe of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park near its namesake volcano. Though many animal species inhabit the park, the White-tailed deer are rarely spotted here since the park’s lush rainforest is not an optimal environment. In the rural parts of Guanacaste, concerns over enforcing the hunting ban is also a real concern. We hope the modern day hunter stays on the side of the law, by packing only a camera with the skill to capture the quick-footed Costa Rica National Symbol of Wildlife, the White-tailed deer. Arrange your guided Eco-adventure tour at the hotel’s reservation desk. They are specialists in assisting guests with planning tours and outdoor activities whose role is to ensure you get the most out of your vacation here in Costa Rica