Canyon Country Animals
Scientific Name: Ococoileus hemionus
The summer coat of the Mule Deer varies from yellowish to reddish, while its winter coat is dark gray. The insides of its legs, underparts, and rump are whitish. The short, stumpy tail is tipped with black. Males (bucks) have branched or forked antlers.
They inhabit forest, chaparral, and desert scrub communities. They are a large herbivore with a very varied diet, depending upon the season, vegetative type where it lives, and climatic conditions.
Fawns, usually twins, are born in midsummer. Deer may live to ten years in the wild, but average only three to three and a half years. This large herbivore may reach in excess of 200 pounds. Bucks grow and shed new antlers annually. Mule deer usually "bounce" away.
Scientific Name: Ococoileus virginianus
A very dainty, beautiful deer; it is much smaller than the mule deer. Pale gray in color, with white under parts. The large, triangular tail is snowy-white underneath. Males (bucks) have antlers which do not branch or fork; antler tines rise from a main beam. They are a medium-large herbivore, more a browser than a grazer. Prefers shrubs, forbs, and trees but utilizes a wide variety of plants. Preyed upon by coyote, bobcat, and lion. Fawns, usually twins, are born in early to midsummer. A very shy, alert deer which runs and commonly "flags" its large, white tail when frightened.
- If the deer is still in the road, pull over to the side of the road and turn on your flashers. If you have them, set flares on either side of the animal.
- If you have a cell phone, call 911. They'll contact the local wildlife agency to deal with the animal, and dispatch a highway patrol officer or sheriff's deputy to write up an incident report, which you'll need for your insurance, if there was damage to your vehicle.
- If you don't have a cell phone, either wait for someone who does to pass by, or drive into the closest town to call.
- Make sure to make careful note of exactly where the accident occurred.
- If the deer is still alive, do not attempt to put it out of its misery, especially if you have a gun. You'll run the risk of being cited for poaching. (Some sick and twisted individuals deliberately hit deer and elk so they can claim the carcass.)
- While the highway patrol recommends dragging the animal off of the road, wildlife officials caution that seemingly deceased animals can suddenly come to life, and cause serious injuries to the good Samaritan trying to move it. Their advice is to leave the animal where it is, dead or alive, and wait for a wildlife officer.
No matter where you are driving, keep these facts and cautions in mind:
- Deer are everywhere.
- Deer are most active just before sunrise and just after sunset.
- Deer travel in herds; if you see one, others are nearby. They also travel in single file; if one passes in front of you, more are likely to follow.
- If you see a deer alongside of the road, just assume it is about to run in front of you.
- When startled, deer sometimes abruptly reverse direction after crossing a road.
- If a deer is standing in the road, don't try to go around it. Stop and honk your horn until it, and all of its friends, have vacated the area.
There are several types of deer that you might see in the canyon country, but most often you will see mule deer. In protected areas, such as the national parks, these good sized animals are not shy and may walk within a few feet of your campsite. Resist the temptation to touch them and remember that in spite of their graceful appearance, they are wild animals and will defend themselves aggressively if they fear for their safety. Sit quietly and observe them in their natural surroundings, and takes lots of photos.
Do not feed the deer and keep your campsite clean and tidy, especially while you are away from camp. Mule deer, in many areas, have become habituated to human food, and may become a problem. In one case, an autopsy found that deer were starving to death because they had consumed too much plastic, which was prohibiting digestion. It is illegal to feed any animal in a national park.
- The main photo at the top of this page was taken by Anne L. Stehno near Bright Angel Campground in Grand Canyon National Park. The other photos on this page were taken by Frank P. Stehno at various locations.
- In our wanderings we see deer all of the time. Hardly a trip or a hike goes by when we don't see at least one deer. Many times we see small to large groups of deer, especially mule deer out here in the west.
- Great locations to spot lots of deer include the campground and orchard in Capitol Reef National Park, around the campground in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and along most of the trails in Grand Teton National Park.
Remember to bookmark this site before you venture off down these side trails. They lead to other Web sites that we do not control. We cannot vouch for the content on, nor do we endorse, these sites. The following links are intended to assist you in your quest for further related information. If you discover a broken link, or a link with inappropriate content, or know of a link that should be listed here, please let us know.
From the British Columbia Outdoor Wilderness Guide.
Information on the mule deer, from Mule-Deer.com.
Mule Deer Foundation
Ensuring the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer, and their habitat.
From the Oklahoma Biological Survey.
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