Deer CAN swim.
More Info: Deer are fast, skilled swimmers, who can cross lakes and rivers at up to 13 miles per hour. They will often take to the water when they are frightened or to escape predators.
A Body Built For Swimming
Deer have powerful hind legs, which they use to good advantage while swimming. With that power and good stamina, a white-tailed deer can swim distances up to 10 miles, easily allowing them to cross most lakes and rivers. Additionally, their well designed coat acts as a flotation device.
A Natural Flotation Device
One reason that deer can swim such long distance is due to the makeup of their coat. Their undercoat is dense and wooly, providing good insulation from the heat draining effects of spending a long time in the water. Their real secret, however, is their top coat, which is made up of long, hollow, air-filled hairs. These hairs provide so much buoyancy that up to one third of the deer’s body is kept above water, reducing the amount of energy needed to propel them against the water’s resistance.
Why Do Deer Cross Wide Bodies of Water?
Biologists have noted that deer often take to the water when frightened. Sometimes, they just keep on swimming in the direction that they were headed. At other times, deer will take to the water in an attempt to find food or shelter that is not easily accessible by other means. For example, on Ohio’s north coast, deer will sometimes be seen in Lake Erie, swimming to the small islands nearby. Some pregnant deer will also swim to small islands looking for a safer place to give birth to their fawns.
“Outdoor Notebook Column – Animal Facts.” Ohio Department of Natural Resources – camping, boating, fishing, hunting, biking, hiking in Ohio. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. http://www.ohiodnr.com/aug04/0818animalcolumn/tabid/14546/default.aspx
“Whitetail Deer Facts.” Whitetail Deer Hunting, Scouting, and Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. http://www.huntstats.com/whitetail.deer.facts.html