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Can Deer Swim?

Deer are terrestrial animals that are often found in wooded areas and grasslands across the globe. They are an extremely common sight, even in residential areas, and can often be seen grazing on lawns or in gardens. We know they thrive on land, but how about the water? Can deer swim?

Deer are adept swimmers and can swim several miles to reach remote river islands. A deer’s highly developed leg muscles, flat hooves, and a buoyant topcoat of fur help them stay afloat even in strong currents. 

So, now we know that deer can swim, and well at that. But we still have many questions to address, like how far they can swim and why a group of deer ever needs to get in the water.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about deer and their ability to swim. Keep reading now to get all the details.

Why Are Deer So Good At Swimming?

deer swimming across the river

The first reason is because of their fur coats. They have two coats, one under and one on top. The undercoat is fairly dense wool to help fend off the cold and keep in body heat. This also allows them to stay in cold water longer without suffering negative effects quickly.

The second coat is on top of the first, and it is full of long hollow hairs that are, in fact, buoyant in the water. These hairs serve as a sort of flotation device for deer, allowing them to stay afloat in water for much longer than they would be able to otherwise. And paired with their ability to propel themselves forward, they can swim for long distances.

The second reason is that a deer’s body is shaped to help them handle water well. Their bodies are built to easily cut through a current without being dragged down by water resistance. If their bodies were flatter and less dynamic, they would be harder to swim.

How Far Can Deer Swim?

a deer swimming in the water

As deer are, for the most part, exceptional swimmers, they can cover long distances swimming if they need to.

Some deer have been known to swim up to 10 miles or more when escaping a predator or when relocating to a new grazing territory.

Their strong leg muscles and flat hooves can propel themselves through the water for a decent distance without getting tired.

How Fast Does a Deer Swim?

As we mentioned briefly, most deer can swim at speeds up to 15mph. This is partly due to their strong legs and a few other biological advantages.

Why Do Deer Go in the Water?

a herd of deer in the lake

It may seem strange that an animal thrives on land would ever want to go in the water. However, deer sometimes have great reason to start swimming rather than staying on the ground all the time.

The first possible reason is to escape danger. If a predator is chasing a deer, it may take to the water to escape. For example, wolves are one major predator of deer. They are not the strongest swimmers and would easily be left behind if a deer were to take the chase to the water.

Deer have also been known to flee natural disasters, such as earthquakes or wildfires, by swimming away from them. This, of course, is dependent on whether or not there is a body of water nearby for them to take advantage of.

The second reason is that deer may need to cross a body of water to migrate or locate a new food source. Deer are migratory creatures, and as such, they may need to cross and river or lake to find a mate, join a herd, or find food. This can be pretty common, especially during mating season or when food has become scarce.

Can Deer Swim Across a River?

whitetail deer swimming

As deer are known to be strong swimmers, the average deer can cross a river if needed. As we discussed earlier, a deer may need to cross a river if they are attempting to escape danger, find a mate, migrate, or find a new food source.

And seeing as most deer can swim distances of up to 10 miles, they should easily be able to cross most rivers. Very few rivers in the world are wider than 10 miles across. If there was such a river, say the Amazon River, for example, a deer may have a more challenging time crossing it.

Can Deer Swim in the Ocean?

young deer on the shoreline

Deer can swim in the ocean. Even certain species of deer have specially adapted physiologies to help them swim better in ocean water. Some species of deer, including the Korean and Chinese water deer, can swim long distances in the ocean.

However, both of these species have become endangered due to human expansion and the prevalence of natural hunters.

Deer like these seem to take advantage of the ocean to help them get to new lands they would otherwise be unable to reach, such as islands with new food sources.

Final Thoughts

a herd of deer crossing the river

Even though deer are primarily terrestrial animals, meaning they live and thrive on land, they can swim in the water.

Most species of deer are great swimmers, using their strong leg muscles, flat hooves, and a buoyant topcoat of fur to help them get through the water. They can cross almost any body of water, as long it is not too far across.

We hope this article has answered your questions about whether or not deer can swim. For more interesting animal facts and information, check out some of our other articles here!

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