Mule Deer

Mule Deer

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A mule deer buck and doe in...Mule Deer in sage brush, csmcgranahan photo.
Mule DeerMule Deer in velvet with typical antler formation, echoguy photo


The mule deer is a fascinating animal that was created for living in the western mountains.

Imagine a group of seven mule deer bucks silhouetted against a high country western sunset with their massive antlers standing high above their large ears. Their antlers literally look like shrubs standing out against the setting sun. There is not a much better sight that there s to imagine.

Constant vigilance and an intimate knowledge of their surroundings aids in their survival. Right now none of them could care less about the bucks standing around them, but that will change. But at this moment they are focused on building up strength that will enable them to best each other when the breeding season begins.

Please attach any quality Mule Deer Photos.

Mule Deer:

Mule deer at the Wellington...Mule Deer does, RyanS photo.

Mule Deer: Odocoileus Hemionus

Mule Deer are closely related to its lowland cousin the Whitetail Deer. Mule Deer are a dark gray-brown in color and have a small white patch on its rump and a black-tipped tail. They get their names from their large mule-like ears that can be turned to assist in hearing.

Mule Deer antlers are distinguished from Whitetail Deer antlers by the forks. Whitetails points come off the main beam compared to a Mule Deer antler that forks off in two equal forks.

A Mule Deer stands about 36 inches high at the shoulder. A mature male can weigh up to 330 pounds and have antlers that spread over 30 inches wide at the widest point.

All Mule Deer are opportunistic feeders and will feed on a wide variety of plants. Their preferred foods are fresh green leaves, twigs, lower branches of trees, and various grasses.
Mule Deer have stomachs that are divided into several areas where they can store food. They can easily regurgitate the food they eat and process it again, this is called chewing its “cud”. While they rest they can frequently be seen lying down and chewing their cud in the afternoon and early evening. They are generally seen grazing during the early morning and later in the evening.

Deer are not especially vocal, although young fawns bleat on occasion. Injured deer utter a startlingly loud "blatt" or bawl.

Life Cycle:

You can t see meMule Deer fawn in hiding mode, Arthur Digbee photo.

The life span of a healthy Mule Deer in the wild is 10 years.

November and December are the months that Mule Deer breed. As with other cervidaes, the bucks fight each other for the right to breed the female who is in estrus. After the breeding season the bucks continue their solitary lifestyle and the does return to the family groups until winter returns to the high country. During the harshest part of the winter Mule Deer travel together in large groups.

The bucks shed their antlers before April. They start to grow them again in the spring.

Mule Deer does will give birth to usually two fawns around May after about 200 day of pregnancy. The fawns weigh about 6 pounds and are camouflaged to blend into their habitat by their reddish color mixed with white spots. Mule Deer fawns also have little or no scent which further protects them from predators. A Mule Deer doe will care for its fawns until her next offspring are born.


Mule Deer can be found throughout the western United States and Canada.

Mule Deer can be found anywhere from lower desert areas and lower mountain slopes to the very top of mountains above treeline. They tend to enjoy areas where they can see safely and recognize danger well before actually being threatened. Typically a Mule Deer will quietly sneak out of an area with out being seen.

Natural Predators:

Predators for Mule Deer include mountain lions at any time during the life span. Bears and wolves will prey on a mule deer during a weakened condition and wolves are particularly efficient during times of deep snow. Mule Deer have behaviors that help protect them from predators. Their ability to cover large amounts of ground is amazing. The Mule Deer will jump in a zigzag fashion; this is called stotting, when a Mule Deer stotts it can leap up to 24 feet with each jump. The Mule Deer also blends in effectively with its surroundings which helps protect it from predators.

Mule Deer fawns are also at risk to the usual predators suspects such as wolves, bears, mountain lions and eagles.

Mule Deer at Great Sand Dunes National ParkMule Deer in velvet developing atypical antler formation, Mark Doiron photo
Mule Deer below Indecision PeakMule Deer does, Anya Jingle photo
Valhalla Mule DeerMule Deer Buck, SteveOS photo

Threats from Mankind:

Glacier Park MuleyGlacier National Park Mule Deer

Mule Deer are threatened by human development in their spring and winter ranges. It is not unusual to see Mule Deer feeding in residential yards and there is even a massive mule deer buck that maintains a year round residence at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. Conflicts between Mule Deer and humans seem to be increasing especially in the fall during the rut. Mule Deer bucks have been know to chase people if they encroach the space that the Mule Deer feels is their safe zone. This is understandable when it occurs in the wild but it is another issue when it occurs in city residential areas.
Another major issue occurs between Mule Deer and ranchers. Livestock and Mule Deer share the same range in the spring and summer. There is concern about a disease called Hoof and Mouth Disease which can be transmitted from the Deer to the livestock and vice versa.


As with other mammals, Mule Deer rely on secure range land and stable habitat. The conservation agencies main focus is management of roadless areas, development of conservation easements and selective harvest of mule deer.

The Future:

Mule Deer thrive where habitat is secure. Their future is largely dependent upon how mankind cares for the areas where Mule Deer live.

Continued conservation will certainly help in securing the future of this magnificent species.


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