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Mule Deer of the Rocky Mountains
Mule Deer Buck - Rocky Mountains - Estes Park,  Colorado

Mule Deer *Odocoileus hemionus* given the name because of their large "mule" like ears... Mule Deer can be found in many western states of North America. They are larger in size than whitetail deer and their antlers grow off of a "Y" framework, making them distinctive from the other species. Their tail is narrow, cream white in color with a black tip. Only the males have antlers which they shed from February through April, making way for new Velvet growth to begin in late May and early June.

Mule Deer Bucks - Rocky Mountains - Estes Park,  Colorado


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Mule deer normally feed in the early morning before and just after sunrise or in late afternoon and evening, just before and after sundown. They spend their midday bedded down in cool, secluded places that offer them good observational advantages & quick escape routes. During the summer season, bucks will retire as soon as the sun shines and head into the dense shade of of the trees or bushes to bed down for the day. They will always choose areas offering them complete observational advantage as well as several quick escape routes. In general, the more mature bucks tend to prefer rocky ridges for their bedding grounds where they appear to feel more secure from the approach of danger. Does and fawns are more likely to bed down in open areas.

Mule Deer grow larger in average than Whitetails. Mature bucks can weigh from 150-400+ lbs and be as tall as 3 feet at their shoulders. Does can weigh from 140-200 lbs. They average 4 - 4.5 feet in length.

During the Fall season, necks of rutting bucks swell. The mating or Rutt, begins in late October with the dominant bucks breeding with more than one doe. Rutting bucks will travel among the doe groups tending to and breeding with the does in estrus. Does will give birth in June to one or two reddish-brown, white-spotted fawns.

The summer forage for Mule Deer is chiefly herbaceous plants. They may also consume blackberry, huckleberry and thimbleberry if available in the area. During winter their diet will include twigs of the Douglas fir, cedar, yew, aspen, willow, dogwood, juniper, and sage. Mule Deer will also eat acorns, strawberries, raspberries and apples when available. Mule deer primarily browse for their food. The majority of their diet is comprised of weeds and the leaves/twigs of brush. Mule deer have a small rumen and therefor must forage on high quality foods. Frequently the high quality foods are those that are green and growing. Mule deer will consume grass especially when the grass is green and actively growing. Like cows and other animals with a 4-chambered stomach, deer process food by chewing cud (ruminating). This reprocessing of food, along with beneficial bacteria in the stomach, allows the deer to digest fibrous leaves and twigs. Mule Deer in mountainous areas migrate seasonally from higher summer elevations to snow-free lower winter ranges.

Mule deer have a unique fast bound with a stiff-legged gait, the tail held down, unlike their cousins the Whitetail which "flag" their tails upward. This bounding gait allows the deer to travel quickly when feeling the presence of danger.


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