Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
How Old is My Deer?
Tooth Identification Basics
Whitetail and mule deer basically have two groups of teeth. The front teeth,
or incisors, are used for collecting food. The back teeth or cheek teeth - molars
and premolars - are used to chew and grind food. Between the incisors and molars
is an open space along the jaw that has no teeth. (Note: In all photos, black
line indicates the gum line.)
Front Teeth (Inisors):
These are the front teeth on a deer jaw. When a deer is 5-6 months old, the
central two incisors are replaced. The rest of the front teeth -lateral incisors
and canine teeth - are replaced during the 10th and 11th month. Unlike horses,
deer do not have upper incisors.
Premolars: The first three teeth on each side of the jaw are called premolars.
Deer grow two sets of premolars. The first set appear in fawns and last until
the deer is about 1-1/2; years old, when permanent adult premolars push out
the baby premolar teeth. An important characteristic of the first set of premolars
is that the third premolar has three crowns or cusps. When the
permanent teeth come, all premolars have just two cusps.
Molars: The fourth, fifth, and sixth cheek teeth are the molars.
Deer only grow one set of molars. Generally, six-month-old deer have only
one molar when they enter the fall hunting season. Therefore, six-month-old
deer usually have only four cheek teeth. By 1-1/2; years of age - the second
fall - the second and third molar have erupted through the gum, though the
last cusp of the third molar may still be below the gum line. All six molars
and premolars are fully erupted by 2-1/2; years.
The vast majority of deer in North Dakota are 2-1/2; years old or younger.
To determine the age of animals in older age classes we need to look more
closely at tooth wear.
Previous Section--How to Age Your Deer
Return to Contents
Next Section--Through the Ages