Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals
Search the Archive

  Artiodactyla · Cervidae · Odocoileus hemionus
  Smithsonian Institution
  Copyright Notice
  Privacy Notice
 
Odocoileus hemionus

Mule Deer

Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae

Click to see adaptations.   
Image of Odocoileus hemionus
Odocoileus hemionus - coastal summer variation, left (male); inland winter variation, male (center) and female (right)
Click to enlarge. (96 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.


Mule Deer live in a broad range of habitats - forests, deserts, and brushlands. Mountain populations migrate to higher elevation in warmer months, looking for nutrient-rich new-grown grasses, twigs, and shrubs. They maintain separate summer and winter ranges, connected by a migratory pathway. In milder climates, they do not migrate. They live in small social groups of about three, except during the winter, when large groups may come together to feed in open meadows. Females tend to stay close to where they were born. Males disperse farther, establish their own territories, and compete for access to females during the October and November breeding season. The males lose their antlers after breeding and grow new ones yearly, with each set becoming larger than the previous one. Newborns, with spotted coats, are well-camouflaged.

Also known as:
California Mule Deer, Black-tailed Deer

Sexual Dimorphism:
Males are usually heavier than females.

Length:
Range: 1.3-1.7 m males; 1.3-1.6 m females

Weight:
Range: 40-120 kg males; 30-80 kg females

References:

Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel., 1817.  Extracts from the Journal of Mr. Charles Le Raye, relating to some new Quadrupeds of the Missouri Region, with notes by C. S. R.  American Monthly Magazine and Critical Review, 1:435-436.

Links:

Mammal Species of the World

Mammalian Species, American Society of Mammalogists' species account

Distribution of Odocoileus hemionus

Image of Odocoileus hemionus
Click to enlarge. (68kb)

Image of Odocoileus hemionus
Click to enlarge. (110kb)

 
Bones and Teeth
Odocoileus hemionus
Right wrist bone assembly, with forearm bones to the top. Click to enlarge. (13kb)