Mule Deer:

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

occupy upper City Creek Canyon and

other areas of the Wasatch Mountains

during the summer and during the winter

season will migrate to lower areas in the

Canyons. The Mule Deer does this migration as a means of finding food,

especially in the winter when food such as browse plants are covered by

deep snow. Their diets vary with the change of season, eating herbaceous

plants and grasses in the warmer months, and browsing on woody

vegetation (such as bitterbrush and gamble oak) during the winter months.

Older male mule deer ( bucks)

have large antlers that they use

for defense and as a sign of

dominance that aids in the

courtship/mating process. Female

Mule deer (does) have no antlers

and are sexually mature after four

and a half months, although they

usually don't mate until about 2

years old. Females breeding for

the first time bear only a single

young, but older does usually

bear twins, and this species of

deer have been known to bear up

to four young at one time. Mule

(Bitterbrush flower, photo taken by Dr. Ty Harrison)

deer are polygynous, where dominant male deer watch over an entire herd

of female deer.

Mule Deer are interdependent on predators to help control their population.

Cougars are the main predator of the mule deer and help to keep the

population of deer at an acceptable level. If there were no killing of the mule

deer, through predation or hunting, then the deer's population would soar

and there would be starvation and disease occurring within the herd.


The Kaibab Plateau in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona is an excellent

example of how eliminating natural predators will drastically affect the

population of mule deer. The Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona used to be

an excellent deer habitat, until grazers (cattle and sheep) were introduced

and overgrazed the area. In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt

designated the area as a National Game Preserve, to protect the deer herd.

As part of the efforts to increase the deer in the preserve, all the deer's

natural predators, such as cougars, bobcats, wolves and coyotes were

hunted and killed. In the next 18 years the deer herd increased dramatically,

from 3,000 to about 100,000. Without natural predators and with the habitat

becoming unable to support the huge numbers of deer, the deer began to

starve and die off due to disease. By 1940 the deer herd had dropped from

100,000 to just 10,000. Although the Kaibab was an excellent lesson of the

importance that predators, cougars, have on maintaining a healthy mule deer

population; the main factors that contributed to the demise of the mule deer

was the removal of natural browse food by the introduced grazers. So, by

introducing grazers and the removal of predation the mule deer in the Kaibab

suffered dramatically (Samuel I. Zeveloff, 1998).


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