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 Animal Fact Sheet:  Mule Deer

Identifying Features

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are easy to identify due to their large mule-like ears. They are brownish-gray in color, have a white rump patch and a small white tail with a black tip. The male deer grow antlers during the summer and fall and shed them each spring. The antlers split off from the main branch forming two branches, each branch has 2 or more tines.

Adaptations

These deer adapt to living in the desert by being active during the warm weather at night or during the early morning hours. They also have adapted to eating a wide variety of vegetation types in order to meet all of their nutritional needs.

Habitat

Mule deer can be found throughout desert regions as long as there is enough vegetation to hide in and to eat. They will move to higher elevations during the hottest parts of the summer and move to lower elevations during the winter months. They also are found in mountain forests, wooded hills and in chaparral.

Range

Mule deer are found throughout the entire western United States.

Wild Status

These deer currently are not threatened or endangered. Many states have purchased tracts of land in order to maintain the various habitats critical to the deer.

Diet

Mule deer eat a variety of vegetation. They are known to eat mesquite leaves and beans, fairy duster, jojoba, cat claw, buck bush and other shrubs and grasses.

Predators

Humans, coyote, mountain lion, eagles, bear, wolves, and bobcats.

Home

Mule deer will make temporary 'beds' which are usually nothing more than flattened areas of grass or leaves. If it is an area they use often, then they will use their hooves to scratch a level depression into the earth.

Life Span

Mule deer usually live 9-11 years in the wild and can live to be much older when in captivity.

Size

These deer range from 3.0-3.5 feet tall at the shoulder, 4.5-7.0 feet long and have a tail that is 5.0-8.0 inches long. they can weigh between 130-280 pounds. The female deer are smaller than the male.

Extra Fun-facts

  • The annual cycle of antler growth is regulated by changes in the length of the day.
  • Mule deer females usually give birth to two fawns, although if it is their first time having a baby they often only have one fawn.
  • Mule deer have no upper teeth, only a hard palate.

   ©Copyright 2008, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum