Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are native to the Great Basin and the western United States. They are one of the most widespread large mammals in the western United States. They can be found in a variety of habitats including; open plains, deserts, coniferous forests and alpine habitats. They do tend to be absent from southwest deserts, due to a lack of succulent vegetation for forage.
Mule deer tend to be a rusty to gray brown in color and have white patches on their throat and face with black stripes on their forehead. Their large ears are the source of their common name and help differentiate them from white-tail deer. They have a whitish rump with a black tip on their whitish tail.
Males tend to be larger than females. Males tend to weight roughly 200 pounds where females tend to weigh around 150 pounds. This varies greatly upon region and subspecies. In addition, males grow antlers, females do not. Antlers are made of bone and start growing in late winter, reaching their full size in late summer. Antlers are then shed, yearly, typically in December.
Mule deer are intermediate/mix feeders and can go between grazing and browsing. Mule deer eat the stalks, flowers, fruits, and seeds of grasses and forbs. They also eat the buds, fruits, seeds, stems, leaves, and bark of trees and shrubs, such as serviceberry, sagbrush and bitterbrush. Bitterbrush is an important winter forage for mule deer and other wildlife.
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