15 September 2008

California Mule Deer

Deer live in much of California, from the coast to the mountains, and even in some desert areas. We have Mule Deer in this state, and they make themselves at home even in towns, where they readily walk into yards and nibble on the greenery.

While visiting the coast last week, I happened upon a pair of deer who were walking on a coastal bluff that was covered with shrubs. The pair were some distance apart, then quickly walked toward each other.



Suddenly, the female was out of sight, then the male followed.


It was just a glimpse of their life which I caught on camera, and they were much too far away to see where they went once they descended from that bluff. Did they have a favorite grazing spot, or perhaps a fresh water creek to drink from? Did they walk upon the beach, or clamber upon a rocky shore? The questions will never be answered unless of course I go back and find a way out onto that same stretch of coastal strand, and find their tracks. Such a pretty pair they were.

California is home to many thousands of deer. Looking up information on a CA Dept. of Fish and Game website, I found a couple of graphics on CA deer. The map shows the distribution of the 6 varieties of mule deer found in the state. Although abundant, their numbers are not as high as they once were, due to loss of habitat, and hunting, as shown in the graph.







Mountain lions and humans are the two species that hunt deer in this state, and both take many kills. The lions of course, need the deer to survive. Humans, on the other hand kill for sport. Yes, many eat the deer meat, but humans have countless other things to eat too.

Where I live, in the mountains, there are many deer that wander into town, and just this week I saw two different bucks just a few houses down the road. Beautiful animals, large, tan, with nice racks of antlers on their heads, and those antlers were covered with velvet.

Deer antlers may hang on a trophy wall in many a hunter's home, but out in nature, the antlers serve as a food source for little animals such as mice. Little animals nibble on antlers and gain essential nutrients such as calcium, and all that nibbling keeps those long front teeth from over growing.

14 comments:

Mary C said...

That was really good research, Zhakee. Now I know what we have around here (not in my neighborhood, but in the hills surrounding us)-- Colombian Black-tailed deer. Thanks for sharing the info.

zhakee said...

Your welcome! Personally, I do not know how to tell the different varieties of deer apart. They all look pretty much the same to me, and they all seem to behave in pretty much the same ways: grazing, nibbling, roaming, glancing up, trotting off when spooked or uneasy, wandering into human areas and eating introduced vegetation, and so forth.

Mary C said...

They *do* all look the same to me, too. I'm now curious how they were named "Colombian." And I guess they all still have white rumps? I wonder if that's what identifies them as "mule" deer - although I take it that the term "mule" refers to the size of their ears. I thought it was interesting from the map that there are Rocky Mountain mule deer here in Calif. Strange. I thought they would have only been around the Rocky Mountains. But I guess they have found their way to good old California! ;o)

Red said...

I never knew the black-tailed deer was a sub-species of a mule deer. I just thought they were completely different species because of the very different habitats.

zhakee said...

Out of curiosity, I did a google search to see just what a mule deer is... they live west of the Missouri River, throughout North America, and they have large ears. The main difference is in tails... the black tail of course has a tail of that color. Apparently, in a mule deer, the antlers fork differently than in a white tail deer.

Not sure on the other differences.

nina said...

We saw black-tailed deer in Washington.

I thought they reminded me of mule deer.
Now I know why.

scienceguy288 said...

Few things are more beautiful than the eye of a deer.

Seabrooke said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog, and I'm pleased to know you liked it enough to link to it! I was intrigued to see you're in the Sierra Nevadas - I worked there one summer a number of years ago, on a bird project in the Lake Tahoe basin. We took a few day-trips into the surrounding areas such as Mono Lake or Yosemite, too. Really loved it there, would go back in a heartbeat. Regarding the Mule Deer, I found it interesting being out there that the deer were different from what I'm used to from home - you get so used to your home fauna, when I think "deer" it's automatically "White-tailed".

zhakee said...

Thanks for checking out my site, Seabrooke. There are so very many beautiful places to see in North America.

Cheryl said...

Beautiful shots....a special moment......
I tend to agree with you lions need to feed.....man on the other hand has plenty of other food on the table.....

Kathiesbirds said...

Nice photos and you did some excellent research. I had no idea there were that many varieties of mule deer.!

Anonymous said...

Having grown up with and around Mule and Blacktailed deer I appreciate the information that you presented on these two, closely related animals. I must, however, point out the indisputable 'fact' that unregulated market and subsistence hunting in the earlier 20th and late 19th century nearly wiped out this, and most other, beautiful wildlife species. It was sportshunters, not birdwatchers, Sierra clubbers or animal lovers, that saved, promoted and provided the money necessary for rebuilding these species for both consumers and non-consumers of the animal to enjoy. In Africa today the sports hunters are almost single-handedly keeping alive that continents wildlife and wild places. Only in countries with a strong sport hunting continue to save the habitat and wildlife all of us love. Great article.

Mike Cody said...

They are called columbia blacktails because they range to the columbia river basin in Oregon and Washington and beyond.
To tell the two species apart area and body size should be your first clue. The southern reach for blacktails in california is santa barbara county bounded on the east by I-5. Any deer from east of I-5 is considered a california mule deer though I have witnessed baja stripe tails move into ca. mule deer range after a large fire in southern ca.
The most sure way to tell a blacktail from a mule deer(any sub species) is the tail. Mule deer have a white rump and tail with a black tip. Black tailed deer have a brown rump and top of tail with a black tip and white under side.
Males of both species have antlers unlike a white tail in which tines grow from a main beam where as muleys and blacktails have antlers that fork and fork again giving mature males a four point antler configuration.

zhakee said...

Thanks Mike.