The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) is a deer indigenous to western North America; it is named for its ears, which are large like those of the mule. The several subspecies include the black-tailed deer.
Unlike the related white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), which is found through most of North America east of the Rockies Mountains and in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains from Idaho and Wyoming northward, mule deer are only found on the western Great Plains, in the Rocky Mountains, in the United States southwest, and on the West Coast of North America. Mule deer have also been introduced to Argentina and Kauai, Hawaii.
|Doe (left) and buck (right) in Elk Creek, Oregon|
10, but some disputed (see text)
|Distribution map of subspecies:
Sitka black-tailed deer (O. h. sitkensis)
Columbian black-tailed deer (O. h. columbianus)
California mule deer (O. h. californicus)
southern mule deer (O. h. fuliginatus)
peninsular mule deer (O. h. peninsulae)
desert mule deer (O. h. eremicus)
Rocky Mountain mule deer (O. h. hemionus)
The most noticeable differences between white-tailed and mule deer are the size of their ears, the color of their tails, and the configuration of their antlers. In many cases, body size is also a key difference. The mule deer's tail is black-tipped, whereas the whitetail's is not. Mule deer antlers are bifurcated; they "fork" as they grow, rather than branching from a single main beam, as is the case with white-tails.
Each spring, a buck's antlers start to regrow almost immediately after the old antlers are shed. Shedding typically takes place in mid-February, with variations occurring by locale.
Although capable of running, mule deer are often seen stotting (also called pronking), with all four feet coming down together.
The mule deer is the larger of the two Odocoileus species on average, with a height of 80–106 cm (31–42 in) at the shoulders and a nose-to-tail length ranging from 1.2 to 2.1 m (3.9 to 6.9 ft). Of this, the tail may comprise 11.6 to 23 cm (4.6 to 9.1 in). Adult bucks normally weigh 55–150 kg (121–331 lb), averaging around 92 kg (203 lb), although trophy specimens may weigh up to 210 kg (460 lb). Does (female deer) are rather smaller and typically weigh from 43 to 90 kg (95 to 198 lb), with an average of around 68 kg (150 lb).
Unlike the whitetail, the mule deer does not generally show marked size variation across its range, although environmental conditions can cause considerable weight fluctuations in any given population. An exception to this is the subspecies the Sitka deer (O. h. sitkensis). This race is markedly smaller than other mule deer, with an average weight of 54.5 kg (120 lb) and 36 kg (79 lb) in males and females, respectively.
In addition to movements related to available shelter and food, the breeding cycle is important in understanding deer behavior. The "rut" or mating season usually begins in the fall as does go into estrus for a period of a few days and males become more aggressive, competing for mates. Does may mate with more than one buck and go back into estrus within a month if they did not become pregnant. The gestation period is about 190–200 days, with fawns born in the spring. The survival rate of the fawns during labor is about 50%. Fawns stay with their mothers during the summer and are weaned in the fall after about 60–75 days. Mule deer females usually give birth to two fawns, although if it is their first time having a fawn, they often have just one.
A buck's antlers fall off during the winter, to grow again in preparation for the next season's rut. The annual cycle of antler growth is regulated by changes in the length of the day. For a guide to identify the sex and age class of Rocky Mountain mule deer at various seasons see S1 File. For more information see the main article on deer.
The size of mule deer groups follows a marked seasonal pattern. Groups are smallest during fawning season (June and July in Saskatchewan and Alberta) and largest in early gestation (winter; February and March in Saskatchewan and Alberta).
Besides humans, the three leading predators of mule deer are coyotes, wolves, and cougars. Bobcats, Canadian lynxes, wolverines, black bears, and brown bears may prey upon adult deer, but most often only attack fawns or infirm specimens or eat the deer after it has died naturally. Bears and smaller-sized carnivores are typically opportunistic feeders, and pose little threat to a strong, healthy mule deer.
In 99 studies of mule deer diets, some 788 species of plants were eaten by mule deer, and their diets vary greatly depending on the season, geographic region, year, and elevation. The studies  gave these data for Rocky Mountain mule deer diets:
|Shrubs and trees||Forbs||Grasses and grass-like plants|
|Winter||74%||15%||11% (varies 0-53%)|
|Spring||49%||25%||26% (varies 4-64%)|
|Summer||49%||46% (varies 3-77%)||3% (varies 0-22%)|
|Fall||60%||30% (varies 2-78%)||9% (varies 0-24%)|
The diets of mule deer are very similar to those of whitetail deer in areas where they coexist. Mule deer are intermediate feeders rather than pure browsers or grazers; they predominantly browse, but also eat forb vegetation, small amounts of grass, and where available, tree or shrub fruits such as beans, pods, nuts (including acorns, and berries.
The most common plant species consumed by mule deer are:
Mule deer have also been known to eat ricegrass, gramagrass, bromegrass, and needlegrass, as well as antelope brush, bearberry, bitter cherry, bitterbrush, black oak, California buckeye, ceanothus, cedar, cliffrose, cottonwood, creek dogwood, creeping barberry, dogwood, Douglas fir, elderberry, fendlera, goldeneye, holly-leaf buckthrorn, jack pine, knotweed, kohleria, manzanita, mesquite, oak, pine, rabbitbrush, ragweed, redberry, scrub oak, serviceberry (including Pacific serviceberry), Sierra juniper, silktassel, snowberry, stonecrop, sunflower, tesota, thimbleberry, turbinella oak, velvet elder, western chokecherry, wild cherry, and wild oats. Where available, mule deer also eat a variety of wild mushrooms, which are most abundant in late summer and fall in the southern Rocky Mountains; mushrooms provide moisture, protein, phosphorus, and potassium.
Humans sometimes engage in supplemental feeding efforts in severe winters in an attempt to avoid mule deer starvation. Wildlife agencies discourage most such efforts, which may cause harm to mule deer populations by spreading disease (such as tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease) when deer congregate for feed, disrupting migratory patterns, and causing overpopulation of local mule deer populations and overbrowsing of shrubs and forbs. Supplemental feeding efforts are appropriate when carefully conducted under limited circumstances, but to be successful, the feeding must begin early in the severe winter, before poor range conditions and severe weather cause malnourishment or starvation, and must be continued until range conditions can support the herd.
Mule deer are variably gregarious, with a large proportion of solitary individuals (35 to 64%) and small groups (groups with ≤5 deer, 50 to 78%). Reported mean group size measurements are three to five and typical group size (i.e. crowding) is about seven.
Mule deer are ruminants, meaning they employ a nutrient acquisition strategy of fermenting plant material before digesting it. Deer consuming high-fiber, low-starch diets require less food than those consuming high-starch, low-fiber diets. Rumination time also increases when deer consume high-fiber, low-starch diets which allows for increased nutrient acquisition due to greater length of fermentation. Because some of the subspecies of mule deer are migratory, they encounter variable habitats and forage quality throughout the year. Forages consumed in the summer are higher in digestible components (i.e. proteins, starches, sugars, and hemicellulose) than those consumed in the winter. The average gross energy content of the consumed forage material is 4.5 kcal/g. Due to fluctuations in forage quality and availability, mule deer fat storage varies throughout the year, with the most fat stored in October, which is depleted throughout the winter to the lowest levels of fat storage in March. Changes in hormone levels are indications of physiological adjustments to the changes in the habitat. Total body fat is a measure of the individual's energy reserves, while thyroid hormone concentrations are a metric to determine the deer's ability to use the fat reserves. Triiodothryionine (T3) hormone is directly involved with basal metabolic rate and thermoregulation.
Mule deer can be divided into two main groups: the mule deer (sensu stricto) and the black-tailed deer. The first group includes all subspecies, except O. h. columbianus and O. h. sitkensis, which are in the black-tailed deer group. The two main groups have been treated as separate species, but they hybridize, and virtually all recent authorities treat the mule deer and black-tailed deer as conspecific. Mule deer apparently evolved from the black-tailed deer. Despite this, the mtDNA of the white-tailed deer and mule deer are similar, but differ from that of the black-tailed deer. This may be the result of introgression, although hybrids between the mule deer and white-tailed deer are rare in the wild (apparently more common locally in West Texas), and the hybrid survival rate is low even in captivity. Many claims of observations of wild hybrids are not legitimate, as identification based on external features is complicated.
Some authorities have recognized O. h. crooki as a senior synonym of O. h. eremicus, but the type specimen of the former is a hybrid between the mule deer and white-tailed deer, so the name O. h. crooki is invalid. Additionally, the validity of O. h. inyoensis has been questioned, and the two insular O. h. cerrosensis and O. h. sheldoni may be synonyms of O. h. eremicus or O. h. peninsulae.
Two forms of black-tailed deer or blacktail deer that occupy coastal woodlands in the Pacific Northwest are subspecies of the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). They have sometimes been treated as a species, but virtually all recent authorities maintain they are subspecies.
The Columbian black-tailed deer (O. h. columbianus) is found in western North America, from Northern California into the Pacific Northwest and coastal British Columbia. The Sitka deer (O. h. sitkensis) is found coastally in British Columbia, southeast Alaska, and southcentral Alaska (as far as Kodiak Island).Boise River Wildlife Management Area
Boise River Wildlife Management Area at 34,000 acres (140 km2) is an Idaho wildlife management area in Ada, Boise, and Elmore counties east of Boise. The WMA is located on land around Lucky Peak Lake, a reservoir on formed by the Lucky Peak Dam on the Boise River. The WMA is managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) but consists of land owned by IDFG, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The first land for the WMA was purchased in 1943, and the mission of the WMA is to conserve mule deer and elk wintering habitat.
Lower elevations of the WMA support sagebrush steppe, while higher elevations have Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. During the winter there are typically 7,000 mule deer and 500 elk in the WMA.Cabela's Trophy Bucks
Cabela's Trophy Bucks is a hunting simulation video game, in which a player can track and stalk a variety of trophy deer over 24 states and provinces across North America. Species includes whitetail, Rocky Mountain mule deer, sitka, desert mule deer, Columbian black tail and many others.The game was published by Activision Value in conjunction with hunting supply company Cabela's.California mule deer
The California mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus californicus) is a subspecies of mule deer whose range covers much of the state of California.Chronic wasting disease
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease affecting cervids, the deer family, and humans. It belongs to a group of similar diseases such as BSE (mad cow disease) and scrapie in sheep, called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE). In the US, CWD affects mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk (or "wapiti"), moose, caribou, and reindeer. Natural infection causing CWD affects members of the deer family. Experimental transmission of CWD to other species, such as squirrel, monkeys and genetically modified mice has been shown. In 1967, CWD was first identified in mule deer at a wildlife research facility in northern Colorado, United States. It was initially recognized as a clinical "wasting" syndrome and then in 1978, it was identified more specifically as a TSE disease. Since then, CWD has been found in free-ranging and captive animal populations in 26 US states and three Canadian provinces. In addition, CWD has been found in one wild reindeer herd in Norway (March 2016) as well as sporadic cases in wild moose and one red deer. Single cases of CWD in moose have been found in Finland (March 2018) and in Sweden (March 2019). CWD was found in South Korea in some deer imported from Canada. CWD is typified by chronic weight and clinical signs compatible with brain lesions, aggravated over time, always leading to death. No relationship is known between CWD and any other TSEs of animals or people.
Although reports in the popular press have been made of humans being affected by CWD, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests, "In our studies, we have discovered that the disease does, in fact, affect humans." epidemiologic and laboratory studies are needed to monitor the possibility of such transmissions".
The epidemiological study further concluded, "[a]s a precaution, hunters should avoid eating deer and elk tissues known to harbor the CWD agent (e.g., brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes) from areas where CWD has been identified".Deer hunting
Deer hunting is hunting for deer for meat or sport, an activity which dates back tens of thousands of years. Venison, the name for deer meat, is a nutritious and natural food source of animal protein that can be obtained through deer hunting. There are many different types of deer around the world that are hunted for their meat.
Hunting deer is a regulated activity in many territories. In the US, a state government agency such as a Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) or Department of Natural Resources (DNR) oversees the regulations. In the UK, it is illegal to use bows for hunting.Flat Tops (Colorado)
Flat Tops is a mountain range located in Colorado within the Routt and White River National Forests. The area is home to 110 Ponds and Lakes.Much of the range is within the boundary of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. The Flat Tops Wilderness Area can be accessed by Colorado Rd 7 through the town of Yampa, in Routt County Colorado.
The Flat Tops range is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, including many large mammals such as Moose, Elk, Mule deer, Black bear, and Cougars. This area has been affected by the non-native plant species, Yellow toadflax .Gary Mule Deer
Gary Mule Deer (born Gary C. Miller; November 21, 1939) is an American comedian and country musician.Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a Colorado State Park located in Gilpin and Jefferson counties northwest of Golden, Colorado. The 11,998-acre (48.55 km2) Front Range park established in 1960 has 36 miles (58 km) of hiking trails. Horse and bicycle travel is allowed on 22 miles (35 km). Facilities include a visitors center, over 100 campsites and over 100 picnic sites.Wetland and riparian plant communities are found along Ralston, Nott and Deer creeks and small ponds within the park. Ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, Douglas fir and aspen are found in forested areas. Commonly seen wildlife includes mule deer, elk, black bear, mountain lion, Abert's squirrel and pine squirrel. Visitors also occasionally spot moose, which are increasing in the park. Common birds include turkey vulture, Steller's jay, Clark's nutcracker, mountain bluebird and mountain chickadee.Grand Mesa National Forest
The Grand Mesa National Forest is a U.S. National Forest in Mesa, Delta and Garfield Counties in Western Colorado. It borders the White River National Forest to the north and the Gunnison National Forest to the east. The forest covers most of Grand Mesa and the south part of Battlement Mesa. It has a total area of 346,555 acres (541.49 sq mi, or 1,402.46 km²). It is managed by the United States Forest Service together with Gunnison National Forest and Uncompahgre National Forest from offices in Delta, Colorado. There are local ranger district offices located in Grand Junction.
Animals that inhabit this forest are elk, mule deer, Canadian lynx, black bears, pine marten, cougars, and bighorn sheep. Birdwatchers get a seasonal opportunity to view species of bird such bald eagles, boreal owls, golden eagles, Mexican spotted owls, common ravens, wild turkeys and peregrine falcons.
Originally called Battlement Mesa Forest Reserve, created by Benjamin Harrison on December 24, 1892, it was the third forest reserve created in United States. It is the largest flat top mountain in the world.Paonia State Park
Paonia State Park is a Colorado State Park located in Gunnison County east of Paonia, Colorado. The 1,857-acre (7.52 km2) park in a canyon surrounding Paonia Reservoir on the North Fork Gunnison River was established in 1964. Park facilities include campsites, picnic sites and a boat ramp. Geologic formations from the Cretaceous and Paleocene periods are visible in the park, along with fossilized palm fronds and leaf imprints. Park uplands are gambel oak shrublands along with mixed conifer and aspen forests. Commonly seen wildlife includes, mule deer, elk, cottontail rabbit and marmot.Rifle Gap State Park
Rifle Gap State Park is a Colorado State Park located in Garfield County near Rifle, Colorado. The 1,341-acre (5.43 km2) park established in 1966 includes a 360-acre (1.5 km2) reservoir. Plant communities are pinyon-juniper woodlands, sagebrush shrubland with deciduous riparian forest in places along the edge of the Rifle Gap Reservoir. Commonly observed wildlife include mule deer, elk and great horned owls. Park facilities include a visitors center, campgrounds, picnic sites and a boat ramp.Siffleur Wilderness Area
The Siffleur Wilderness Area is a provincially designated wilderness area in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. It was established in 1961 and it, as one of the three wilderness areas of Alberta, has the strictest form of government protection available in Canada. All development is forbidden and only travel by foot is permitted. Hunting and fishing are not allowed. The other two wilderness areas are White Goat Wilderness Area and Ghost River Wilderness Area and together the three areas total 249,548.80 acres (100,988.82 ha).Siffleur is located near the west end and south side of Canadian Highway 11 and slightly south of the White Goat Wilderness area. It is near the north end of Banff National Park and the south end of Jasper National Park. Mountains rise to 3,300 metres (10,800 ft). The area has rugged mountains, glacier-carved valleys, mountain lakes, and alpine meadows. There are two distinct vegetation zones. Above 2,100 metres (6,900 ft), the tree line, are grasses, sedges and wildflowers. Below that are subalpine forests of spruce, fir, and lodgepole pine. At even lower elevations there are aspen and balsam poplar. Animals in the lower regions include woodland caribou, moose, elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, grizzly bear, black bear, cougar, coyote, timber wolf, and wolverine. Animals in the upper regions include golden-mantled ground squirrels, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, hoary marmot, pika, white-tailed ptarmigan, grey-crowned rosy finch, water pipit and horned lark. Eagles are seen in both the lower and upper regions.Like Siffleur Mountain and Siffleur River, the French siffleur name was applied by James Hector in 1858 for the shrill whistles of the marmot which inhabit the area.Stagecoach State Park
Stagecoach State Park is a Colorado State Park located in Routt County 17 miles (27 km) south of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The 1,641-acre (6.64 km2) park established in 1965 includes a 771-acre (3.12 km2) reservoir on the Yampa River formed by Stagecoach Dam. Facilities include a marina, boat ramps, campsites, picnic sites and 8 miles (13 km) of trails. Park uplands are montane shrub communities, with riparian areas and wetlands around the reservoir and along the river. Commonly sighted wildlife includes elk, mule deer, coyote, red fox and badger.State Forest State Park
State Forest State Park is a Colorado State Park located in Jackson and Larimer counties east of Walden, Colorado, United States. The 70,838-acre (286.67 km2) park was established in 1970 in the Medicine Bow Range of the Rocky Mountains. Facilities include a visitors' center, 187 campsites (including RV and tent sites), over 60 dispersed camping sites, 15 cabins and yurts, picnic sites, boat ramps and 94 miles (151 km) of hiking trails.About 52,000 acres (210 km2) of the park are forested in lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, Colorado blue spruce, aspen and other species. An unprecedented epidemic of Mountain pine beetle is currently reshaping the park's flora landscape. Wildlife in the park includes moose ("Moose is our claim to fame"), bighorn sheep, black bear, mule deer and elk.Steamboat Lake State Park
Steamboat Lake State Park is a Colorado state park located in Routt County 27 miles (43 km) north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and near the community of Hahns Peak Village. The 2,820-acre (1,140 ha) park, established west of Hahns Peak in 1967, includes a 1,101 acres (446 ha) reservoir. Park facilities include a visitors center, marina, boat ramps, campsites, cabins, picnic sites and 5.5 miles (8.9 km) of hiking trails. Plant communities include sagebrush shrubland, quaking aspen and lodgepole pine forests, willow carr and marsh. Commonly seen mammalian wildlife species include mule deer and red fox. The reservoir attracts many species of shorebirds and waterfowl, including sandhill cranes that nest in the wetland areas.Sylvan Lake State Park
Sylvan Lake State Park is a Colorado state park located in Eagle County, 10 miles (16 km) south of Eagle, Colorado. The 1,548-acre (626 ha) park established in 1987 and surrounded by the White River National Forest includes a 42-acre (17 ha) lake and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of trails. Facilities include a visitors center, boat ramp, campsites, cabins, yurts and picnic sites. Plant communities include aspen groves, lodgepole pine and Douglas fir forests on moist slopes. Ponderosa pine and juniper are found on drier slopes. Wetland and riparian areas exist near the reservoir and creek. Common wildlife includes black bear, elk, mule deer, pine marten and beaver.Wenaha Wildlife Area
Wenaha Wildlife Area is a 12,419-acre (5,026 ha) wildlife area near Troy, Oregon. It is operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The area is bordered by Umatilla National Forest. Wildlife visible in the park includes bald eagles, bears, bighorn sheep, bobcats, elk, mule deer, and wild turkey.White Goat Wilderness Area
The White Goat Wilderness Area is a provincially designated wilderness area in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. It was established in 1961 and it, as one of the three wilderness areas of Alberta, has the strictest form of government protection available in Canada. All development is forbidden and only travel by foot is permitted. Hunting and fishing are not allowed. The other two wilderness areas are Ghost River Wilderness Area and Siffleur Wilderness Area and together the three areas total 249,548.80 acres (100,988.82 ha).White Goat is located near the west end and north side of Canadian Highway 11 and slightly north of the Siffleur Wilderness area. It is near the north end of Banff National Park, the south end of Jasper National Park, and east of the Columbia Icefield. Mountains rise to over 3,300 metres (10,800 ft). The area has rugged mountains, glacier-carved valleys, mountain lakes, waterfalls, and alpine meadows. There are two distinct vegetation zones. Above 2,100 metres (6,900 ft), the tree line, are grasses, sedges and wildflowers. Below that are spruce, fir, and lodgepole pine. Animals in the lower regions include woodland caribou, moose, elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, grizzly bear, black bear, cougar, coyote, timber wolf, and wolverine. Animals in the upper regions include golden-mantled ground squirrels, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, hoary marmot, pika, white-tailed ptarmigan, grey-crowned rosy finch, water pipit and horned lark. Eagles are seen in both the lower and upper regions.
Extant Artiodactyla species
Game animals and shooting in North America