Mule deer

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, Cervidae) photographed 08/14/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

While white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus, Cervidae) are abundant across much of North America, there are regions of the American west where they are largely absent.  Here their ecological role is filled by mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, Cervidae), a similar species most easily distinguished by their black-tipped tails.  The range of mule deer covers much of western North America, in many places overlapping the range of white-tailed deer.  On the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, however, only mule deer are found.

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, Cervidae) photographed 08/14/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Within Kings Canyon National Park mule deer enjoy a certain amount of protection from hunting (except possibly for management purposes) and vehicle collisions (since roads are sparse and have low speed limits).  Perhaps for these reasons the deer shown here remained calm in the presence of people and vehicles.  The individual shown above took her time crossing the road (these all look like females), unalarmed by my slowly approaching car.

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, Cervidae) photographed 08/14/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

If I had been a wolf or a cougar the deer may not have been so relaxed.  Those two predators are the biggest natural threats to mule deer, and they enjoy no protection from them within the parks.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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