While learning all about the various species of deer you will commonly spot while out and about in the wilderness, you may come across various different types of deer. From white tailed deer to the elk, and everything in-between, few species are as interesting in terms of appearance, as the mule deer.
Easily spotted and identified because of their large ears, this type of deer is one of the most attractive of all the species too.
Known scientifically as the Odocoileus Hemionus, the mule deer is a large deer, and its appearance really varies from deer to deer. Overall however, they can be identified not only by their ears, but also by the ever-changing color of their coat.
Colors vary from a light grey to a dark grey, from a light brown to a lush dark brown and some are even a brownish red lush color. Their color depends on their surroundings and the also season. Under the jaw you will also see a white or even yellowish patch of fur. Along with those aforementioned large ears, which can be pointy and very protruding from the head you can see why these features make the mule deer appearance very interesting.
The mule deer is large, in fact it can be larger than the size of a grown man in cases. They can weigh anywhere from 95 – 330lb, however the general average is around the 200lb mark. Again, this is over the weight of a grown adult male, so you can get an idea of how large and heavy this type of deer can be.
You can expect a mule deer to have an average lifespan of around 10 years, and the males have large antlers, which are shed and re-grown every year, just in time for breeding season.
While the mule deer is quite a placid species of deer, especially when compared to the sometimes more aggressive elk species, it isn’t uncommon for a male mule deer to become quite confrontational with other males during the mating season. However, this is the same for every male species of any animal!
You can find mule deer across the USA and Canada, however they are more prominent in areas such as the Dakotas, Nebraska, Washington, Kansas, and in the western portions of Texas. In these areas you are much more likely to see mule deer in forested areas, meadows, and in thick vegetation. A mule deer can also be spotted in the alpine meadows.
Deer are herbivores, which means they eat plants. This particular type of deer is particularly partial to nuts, corn, trees, twigs, and general plants. For that reason, the thick vegetation areas are home to the mule deer.
If you want to spot a mule deer, you have to find the best times for spotting them. In this case, the male mule deer is mostly likely to be seen wandering around during the early mornings and early evenings. The female mule deer is much more elusive, however not impossible to spot, especially out of mating season, when they are usually seen totally separate from the males.
The movement of a mule deer is probably what makes it stand apart from other types of deer, aside from their iconic ears. A mule deer doesn’t tend to run, unlike the white-tailed deer which can sprint at speed over short periods of time; a mule deer instead leaps.
Having said that, this doesn’t hinder their speed at all, because a mule deer can reach up to 45mph when leaping over an intense, short period of time. The leap is with all four legs, which they bring up to meet together in mid-air, and these leaps can be as large as 8 yards in distance!
This helps them cover a large amount of ground fast, when running from predators and other threats. This movement is quite interesting to see, and surely makes a refreshing change from the constant fast running you see from other mammals of this type.
This leaping motion, as well as the large, protruding ears, give the mule deer a very different look and movement to other species, and helps them stand out. If you’ve ever seen a mule deer, you will understand how interesting they truly are!
The Mule Deer Summed up
So, we know that the mule deer is iconic in terms of how it looks, but that isn’t just about the pointed, protruding ears that they are known for. Their ever-changing coat color varies from deer to deer, as well as the area in which they are sited. The lush red is one of the most interesting shades to see, however the most common color you will see on the coat of a mule deer is a grey/brown mix hue.
When a mule deer feels threatened, they will leap away from you fast. As we mentioned, this is not a run or a sprint, but a very interesting leaping motion, which will see them pop into the air fast, and then back down again, bringing all four hooves together whilst in mid-air. Whilst you would think that a sprint is more effective in terms of speed, this leaping motion actually helps make the mule deer one of the fastest common species of deer around.
This type of deer is also quite prevalent over the USA, and in particular in the state of Washington. One can spot them in thick vegetation and shrubbery areas. The mule deer enjoys munching on the various types of plant food found in these parts. One might see a mule deer as well in alpine valleys during the colder weather of winter.
Have you had an experience with a mule deer before? How did you identify the Mule species first? Most people notice the ears first of all, and this is probably what makes them stands out above everything else. The movement is of course the second thing, but this is only ever seen when the animal feels threatened and runs. When you do spot one of these magnificent creatures you will see for yourself how unique the mule deer is!