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Official State Mammal
aka: White-tailed Deer

In March 1993, the Seventy-ninth General Assembly of Arkansas approved House Bill 2110, which designated the white-tailed deer as the official mammal of the State of Arkansas. The bill, introduced by Representative Arthur F. Carter, was signed into law by Governor Jim Guy Tucker as Act 892 on April 5, 1993. Arkansas is one of eleven states to have selected Odicoileus Virginianus as an official symbol.

Before European entry into present-day Arkansas, deer abounded; the Hernando de Soto expedition discovered Native American populations dressed in deerskins. The later Caddo people depended heavily on the deer for sustenance. Early Euro-American populations hunted the white-tailed deer without restriction for decades. Roads, houses, farms, and towns soon encroached on its habitat, leading to a steep decline in deer populations. In 1916, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) established the state’s first deer season and, in the 1920s, created deer refuges. By the mid-1930s, however, only a few hundred remained in Arkansas, and the AGFC began purchasing deer from neighboring states and, later, relocating herds to distribute range and improve reproductive viability.

As of 2008, Arkansas’s white-tailed deer herd hovers at about 1 million head. (The national population is estimated at about 15 million head.) As many as 350,000 hunters try their luck with Arkansas’s white-tailed deer each year; yearly harvest usually exceeds 100,000. In 1999, the AGFC found that nearly 6,000 jobs directly depended upon the hunting clientele; hunters annually spent approximately $339 million, much of which was attributable to deer hunters.

For additional information:
Alsheimer, Charles. Quality Deer Management: The Basics and Beyond. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2002.

Collier, Bret A. “Evaluating Impact of Selective Harvest Management on Age Structure and Sex Ration of White-Tailed Deer (Odicoileus Virginianus) in Arkansas.” PhD diss., University of Arkansas, 2004.

Ware, David. It’s Official! The Real Story behind Arkansas’s State Symbols. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2015.

Whitaker, John. Audubon Field Guide to North American Mammals. New York: Knopf, 1996.

“White-Tailed Deer.” Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. http://www.agfc.com/species/Pages/SpeciesWildlifeDetails2.aspx?Title=White-tailed%20Deer (accessed November 2, 2015). 

David Ware
Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office

Related Butler Center Lesson Plans:
Arkansas: a Natural State (Grade Kindergarten)

Last Updated 11/2/2015

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