DNR Question of the Week
The DNR communications team works with agency experts to develop the weekly questions and provide the answers. This feature addresses current DNR issues, interesting topics, or the most frequently asked questions from around Minnesota.
Q: Why does the fur coat of a deer change colors depending on the time of year – a reddish color in the spring and brown in the fall?
A: The deer’s coat is designed to provide both a means for thermoregulation and camouflage. Summer coats appear reddish and are thin, allowing deer to better cope with heat stress. In the fall, deer begin a process of molting, which is triggered by hormonal changes that reflect the changing seasons. The reddish summer coat turns into a faded gray or brown color as the new winter coat begins to grow.
A deer’s winter coat is comprised of two layers. The outer guard hairs are hollow, stiff and grow about 2 inches longer than the undercoat. The inner layer is soft and dense which insulates deer from the cold weather and snow. Coat color, regardless of the season, tends to be darker in forested areas and lighter in agricultural areas where deer are exposed to more direct sunlight.
-Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health program supervisor