The desert mule deer, named for its large ears, makes its home in the Tonto National Forest, McDowell Mountains and southern Arizona in general. They can be found nibbling vegetation in the sparse, low deserts as well as the high forested mountains. The more rugged the country the better. Mule deer are still seen occasionally near Black Mountain.
Coats for the seasons
The mule deer's reddish-brown summer coat turns blue-gray in winter. A darker forehead and lighter face accent their large eyes. Their throat, belly and inner legs are trimmed in white along with a patch on their rumps. Mule deer tails are short, narrow, and black-tipped.
Just browsing, thank you
Mule deer are primarily browsers. They eat twigs, bark, buds, leaves and nuts. Some of the items of the mule deer diet are exhibited along the Scenic Drive - bursage, buckthorn, jojoba and hackberry. Most feeding is done at dawn and dusk, although they will delay their evening meals to avoid contact with humans.
A few points about antlers
Typical mule deer antlers are shaped with branches extending equally in two main beams, which may each fork into two tines. The size and number of points depends on its age, nutrition, and genetic background. Antlers are composed of material similar to bone and are shed each year in the spring, after the breeding season passes. Deer develop antlers in anticipation of the mating season. Bucks are polygamous and fight for a harem of females during the winter breeding season.
Fawns need vegetation too, and lots of it
After a gestation period of 193 days, does give birth to spotted fawns. Fawns are born about midsummer, earlier on northern ranges, later in the south. At lower, dryer elevations, the time of birth is synchronized with summer rains that bring new plant growth. Fawn survival is highly dependent on availability of vegetation for food and cover. Cover is needed so does can hide their fawns. Fawn spots disappear at two months, and the young will stay with their mothers until the following spring.
Facing coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and man
They will become sexually mature in one year and one-half. In the wild, deer have a maximum life span of 10 years. Natural mortality is highest in the first 6 months of life with starvation from scarce range being the leading factor. Predation, diseases, parasites, automobiles, hunting and poaching are hazards they must face. In Arizona, deer are the prey of coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions.
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