STOP! Don’t answer that question without reading this post, because you are probably going to be wrong!
First, the question needs some qualifiers. The main question is centered on predation of whitetails across the continental U.S., and it includes all deer from newborn fawns all the way up to grown adults. And, it also centers on the vast majority of all deer killed by the four main predators: coyotes, wolves, black bears and mountain lions. We purposefully left out human hunters, of course, but I did add in those stats at the end of the post.
So … back to the question:
What Kills the Most Whitetail Deer?
Of all the predators out to get whitetails, which one kills the most whitetail deer annually? The answer isn’t cut and dried, but for the most part, coyotes take down the most deer annually in the U.S.
There are millions of coyotes in the continental U.S., although they primarily prey upon rodents and other small-game animals, they can wreak havoc on deer herds. The Southeast is particularly overrun with coyotes, and in some areas they feed heavily upon deer. In those areas (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, et al), adult deer can account for 40% of the coyote’s annual diet. In other areas, coyotes can and do kill up to 65% of all newborn whitetail fawns.
There are 16 subspecies of coyotes in North America. Hunters, trappers and government agencies kill about 500,000 coyotes annually. North America is home to about 4.7 million coyotes, resulting in a loss of at least 3 million deer (mostly fawns) each year in the U.S.
How Many Deer Do Black Bears Kill Each Year?
As far as efficiency, black bears take the highest percentage of newborn whitetails. In states with thick black bear populations, predation rates on newborn fawns can exceed 80%, meaning only 2 out of 10 newborn deer will survive until fall.
The silver lining on black bears is they are only that efficient for the first 10 to 14 days of a fawn’s life. If a fawn can survive those first two weeks, its chances of being killed by a black bear are dramatically reduced.
Black bears live in 40 states. There are about 600,000 black bears living in the United States. Each year, about 50,000 black bears are taken via legal hunting and trapping methods. Black bear kills about 1.5 million deer each year in the U.S.
How Many Deer Do Wolves Kill Each Year?
The gray wolf is an apex predator. Wolves kill a lot of deer every year, and in areas where wolves are abundant, they will take out 20 deer per year annually. Wolves are not endangered in North America. There are more than 60,000 wolves across the continent, and they kill about 1.2 million whitetails every year, or approximately 20 deer per wolf.
How Many Deer Do Mountain Lions Kill?
Colorado has the most mountain lions in the U.S., but there are 14 other states with sizable big-cat populations. Of them, places like Wyoming, Montana and Oregon have cat populations that put a big dent in deer populations.
An adult mountain lion will kill and consume a deer a week when the opportunity exists. With an estimated U.S. population of 60,000 mountain lions, that would equate to nearly 3 million deer a year if the lions had access to deer all the time. However, the actual number of deer killed by mountain lions every year in the U.S. is probably closer to 1.5 million, as some of the cat populations are in places like Utah, Arizona, California and other arid landscapes with limited deer populations.
How Many Car-Deer Accidents Every Year?
Here are a few other interesting facts on annual whitetail deer mortality: In the U.S. each year, 2.1 million deer die in car-deer accidents. The most frequent months for car-deer accidents are in spring during the fawning season and, especially, in fall during the pre-rut.
How Many Deer Do Hunters Kill in the U.S. Each Year?
Hunters kill about 6 million deer each year during legal hunting seasons in the U.S. This equates to nearly 200,000 tons of wild protein for the human population.