Mule deer

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Mule deer
Mule buck doe elk creek r myatt (5489811074).jpg
Doe (left) and buck (right) in Elk Creek, Oregon[ which? ]
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Capreolinae
Genus: Odocoileus
Species:
O. hemionus
Binomial name
Odocoileus hemionus
(Rafinesque, 1817) [2]
Subspecies

10, but some disputed (see text)

Odocoileus hemionus map.svg
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)
Synonyms [3]
  • Cervus hemionusRafinesque, 1817 [4]
  • Cervus auritusWarden, 1820
  • Cervus macrotisSay, 1823
  • Cervus lewisiiPeale, 1848
  • Cariacus punctulatusGray, 1852
  • Cervus richardsoniAudubon & Bahman, 1848
  • Eucervus pusillaGray, 1873
  • Dorcelaphus crookiMearns, 1897
  • Cariacus virgultusHallock, 1899

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. [1] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Deer A family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

Deer are the hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the fallow deer, and the chital; and the Capreolinae, including the reindeer (caribou), the roe deer, and the moose. Female reindeer, and male deer of all species except the Chinese water deer, grow and shed new antlers each year. In this they differ from permanently horned antelope, which are part of a different family (Bovidae) within the same order of even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla).

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Mule offspring of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare)

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare). Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of chromosomes. Of the two first generation hybrids between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a hinny, which is the offspring of a female donkey (jenny) and a male horse (stallion).

Contents

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. [5]

White-tailed deer species of mammal

The white-tailed deer, also known as the whitetail or Virginia deer, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America as far south as Peru and Bolivia. It has also been introduced to New Zealand, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles, and some countries in Europe, such as Finland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Serbia. In the Americas, it is the most widely distributed wild ungulate.

Idaho State of the United States of America

Idaho is a state in the northwestern region of the United States. It borders the state of Montana to the east and northeast, Wyoming to the east, Nevada and Utah to the south, and Washington and Oregon to the west. To the north, it shares a small portion of the Canadian border with the province of British Columbia. With a population of approximately 1.7 million and an area of 83,569 square miles (216,440 km2), Idaho is the 14th largest, the 12th least populous and the 7th least densely populated of the 50 U.S. states. The state's capital and largest city is Boise.

Wyoming State of the United States of America

Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the western United States. The state is the 10th largest by area, the least populous, and the second most sparsely populated state in the country. Wyoming is bordered on the north by Montana, on the east by South Dakota and Nebraska, on the south by Colorado, on the southwest by Utah, and on the west by Idaho and Montana. The state population was estimated at 577,737 in 2018, which is less than 31 of the most populous U.S. cities including Denver in neighboring Colorado. Cheyenne is the state capital and the most populous city, with an estimated population of 63,624 in 2017.

Description

Small herd of mule deer in the Sulphur Springs Valley of southern Arizona Mule Deer Sulphur Springs Valley Arizona 2014.jpg
Small herd of mule deer in the Sulphur Springs Valley of southern Arizona
Stotting mule deer Stotting mule deer.jpg
Stotting mule deer
O. h. eremicus, the desert mule deer. Female. New Mexico. Mule Deer Trotting.jpg
O. h. eremicus, the desert mule deer. Female. New Mexico.

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.

Stotting

Stotting is a behavior of quadrupeds, particularly gazelles, in which they spring into the air, lifting all four feet off the ground simultaneously. Usually, the legs are held in a relatively stiff position and the back may be arched with the head pointing downward. Many explanations of stotting have been proposed; there is evidence that at least in some cases it is an honest signal to predators that the stotting animal would be difficult to catch.

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). [10] [11] [12] [13]

<i>Odocoileus</i> A genus of mammals belonging to the deer, muntjac, roe deer, reindeer, and moose family of ruminants

Odocoileus is a genus of medium-sized deer containing two species native to the Americas. The name is sometimes spelled odocoeleus; it is from a contraction of the roots odonto- and coelus meaning "hollow-tooth".

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. [14]

Sitka deer subspecies of deer

The Sitka deer or Sitka black-tailed deer, is a subspecies of mule deer, similar to the Columbian black-tailed subspecies. Their name originates from Sitka, Alaska, and it is not to be confused with the similarly named sika deer. Weighing in on average between 48 and 90 kg, Sitka deer are characteristically smaller than other subspecies of mule deer. Reddish-brown in the summer, their coats darken to a gray-brown in mid- to late August. They are also good swimmers, and can occasionally be seen crossing deep channels between islands. Their average lifespan is about 10 years, but a few are known to have attained an age of 15.

Seasonal behaviors

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. [15] The survival rate of the fawns during labor is about 50%. [16] 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. [15]

Rut (mammalian reproduction) mating season of ruminant mammals

The rut, derived from the Latin rugire, is the mating season of mammals which includes ruminant animals such as deer, sheep, camels, goats, pronghorns, bison, giraffes and antelopes but extends to others such as skunks and elephants. The rut is characterized in males by an increase in testosterone, exaggerated sexual dimorphisms and increased aggression and interest in females. The males of the species may mark themselves with mud, undergo physiological changes or perform characteristic displays in order to make themselves more visually appealing to the females. Males also use olfaction to entice females to mate using secretions from glands and soaking in their own urine.

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. [15] For a guide to identify the sex and age class of Rocky Mountain mule deer at various seasons see S1 File. [17] 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). [17]

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. [11]

Diet and foraging behaviors

Mule deer foraging on a late winter morning at Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park

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. [18] The studies [19] gave these data for Rocky Mountain mule deer diets: [20]

Shrubs and trees Forbs Grasses and grass-like plants
Winter74%15%11% (varies 0-53%)
Spring49%25%26% (varies 4-64%)
Summer49%46% (varies 3-77%)3% (varies 0-22%)
Fall60%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. [21] [18] 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. [18] [20]

Mule deer readily adapt to agricultural products and landscape plantings. [22] [23] In the Sierra Nevada range, mule deer depend on the lichen Bryoria fremontii as a winter food source. [24] :2:4

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. [25] 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. [18] [25]

Mule deer grazing in Zion National Park Mule Deer in Zion Canyon.jpeg
Mule deer grazing in Zion National Park
Buck grazing near Leavenworth, Washington Muledeerleavenworth.jpg
Buck grazing near Leavenworth, Washington
Doe grazing in Alberta, Canada Mule Deer at Clearwater Pass 2.jpg
Doe grazing in Alberta, Canada

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. [26] 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. [26]

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%). [27] [28] Reported mean group size measurements are three to five and typical group size (i.e. crowding) is about seven. [17] [29]

Nutrition

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. [30] Because some of the subspecies of mule deer are migratory, they encounter variable habitats and forage quality throughout the year. [31] 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. [32] 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. [33]

Taxonomy

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. [5] 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. [1] [5] [6] [7] [9] [34] Mule deer apparently evolved from the black-tailed deer. [9] Despite this, the mtDNA of the white-tailed deer and mule deer are similar, but differ from that of the black-tailed deer. [9] 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. [8] [9] Many claims of observations of wild hybrids are not legitimate, as identification based on external features is complicated. [8]

Subspecies

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. [5] [35] 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. [34]

The 10 valid subspecies based on the third edition of Mammal Species of the World are: [5]

Related Research Articles

Fallow deer A genus of mammals belonging to the deer, muntjac, roe deer, reindeer, and moose family of ruminants

The fallow deer is a ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. This common species is native to Europe, but has been introduced to Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, South Africa, Fernando Pó, São Tomé, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion, Seychelles, Comoro Islands, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Cyprus, Israel, Cape Verde, Lebanon, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the Falkland Islands, and Peru. Some taxonomers include the rarer Persian fallow deer as a subspecies, while others treat it as an entirely different species.

Mule Mountains place

The Mule Mountains are a north/south running mountain range located in the south-central area of Cochise County, Arizona. The highest peak, Mount Ballard, rises to 7,500 ft (2,300 m). Prior to mining operations commencing there, the mountains were heavily forested with large Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir and other conifers, but these were all cut down for housing needs and to feed the ore smelting furnaces in Douglas, Arizona, approximately 20 miles due east. Now, the primary vegetation of the Mules consists of manzanita brush, juniper, lowland oaks and pines, and various grasses. To the east of the mountain range lies Sulphur Springs Valley, and the San Pedro River and Valley to the west.

Black-tailed deer subspecies of deer

Two forms of black-tailed deer or blacktail deer that occupy coastal woodlands in the Pacific Northwest are subspecies of the mule deer. They have sometimes been treated as a species, but virtually all recent authorities maintain they are subspecies. The Columbian black-tailed deer is found in western North America, from Northern California into the Pacific Northwest and coastal British Columbia. The Sitka deer is found coastally in British Columbia, southeast Alaska, and southcentral Alaska.

Key deer subspecies of mammal

The Key deer is an endangered deer that lives only in the Florida Keys. It is a subspecies of the white-tailed deer. It is the smallest North American deer.

California mule deer subspecies of deer

The California mule deer is a subspecies of mule deer whose range covers much of the state of California.

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.

Taruca species of mammal

The taruca, or north Andean deer, is a species of deer native to South America.

American mountain deer species of mammal

Odocoileus lucasi, known as the American mountain deer, is an extinct species of North American deer.

The Cedros Island mule deer is a subspecies of mule deer found only on Cedros Island off the coast of Baja California. Only about 50 individuals remain, with no captive population. Its behavior is similar to that of other subspecies of mule deer. The subspecies is threatened by feral dogs and poaching.

Mammals of Glacier National Park (U.S.) Wikimedia list article

There are at least 14 large mammal and 50 small mammal species known to occur in Glacier National Park.

Alberta Mountain forests

The Alberta Mountain forests are a temperate coniferous forests ecoregion of Canada.

South Central Rockies forests

The South Central Rockies forests is a temperate coniferous forest ecoregion of the United States located mainly in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. It has a considerably drier climate than the North Central Rockies forest.

Mammals of Olympic National Park Wikimedia list article

There are at least 9 large terrestrial mammal, 50 small mammal and 14 marine mammal species known to occur in Olympic National Park.

Cutaneous fibromas are frequently occurring neoplasms caused by a naturally occurring virus of white-tailed deer. Deer fibromas appear on the skin as hard and round tumors that can be as big as 1 cm in diameter. The tumors are blackish or brown and have a rough textured surface. They do not cause the animal harm unless clumps of fibromas interfere with breathing, eating, or walking. "Fibromas have been reported in white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, fallow deer, red deer, roe deer, Sika deer, moose and caribou ." Other common names for fibromas are deer warts or Shope’s warts/fibroma. They are found across the entirety of the whitetail's range.

References

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Further reading