Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mule Deer Buck

I had some fun testing out my new camera on this cooperative mule deer buck. Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are found throughout western North America and are larger than their eastern cousins, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virgianus). Mule deer have large mule-like ears and a black-tipped tail. 

They also have antlers that fork as they grow. The antlers begin growing in the spring each year and are shed after mating, from mid-January to mid-April. Many people scour the hillsides to pick up these shed antlers to make art out of them, particularly antler chandeliers, lamps, and fireplace tools. In locations where chronic wasting disease has broken out, like Colorado, many artisans choose to make their creations out of fake antlers.

This buck appeared to be enjoying some of the fall colors. He was not far from the road, despite it being hunting season. And he didn't even get up when we walked by. Question: Why would this apparently healthy deer be so tame?

Answer: We were in a national park, so this smart buck knew that he wouldn't be shot. If you're a hunter and reading this, don't despair, many nice bucks leave the national park and are shot outside of it. And the ones that don't leave produce offspring that go out and find new territory.

This buck probably weighs between 200-300 pounds. Females are smaller, and both eat a variety of vegetation. If a mule deer can escape predation by mountain lions or hunters, disease, and hunger from drought years, it is likely to live up to 10 years.

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