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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Mule Deer - Odocoileus hemionus

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Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:
FWP Conservation Tier: 3


 

External Links





 
General Description
Coat gray in winter, brownish in summer; forehead and brisket dark; chin, throat, and rump patch white. Tail short and round with black tip. Ears large (reason for name). Antlers fork and fork again; typical adult buck has four tines on each side (or five if brow tines are present); forward-tipping brow tines are shorter than those of White-tailed Deer or may be absent. Outside of hind foot has a slit-like scent gland up to seven inches long. Mature bucks weigh 250 to 275 lbs. on good range, does 160 to 180. More gregarious and migratory (mostly elevational movements) than White-tailed Deer. Feed early and late in the day. Run with tail down in bounding leaps, keeping all feet together.

Species Range
Montana Range

Click the legend blocks above to view individual ranges.

Montana Distribution


Western Hemisphere Range

 


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 5718

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)



Migration
Migratory in mountain-foothill habitats (Mackie et al. 1982).

Habitat
Grasslands interspersed with brushy coulees or breaks; riparian habitat along prairie rivers; open to dense montane and subalpine coniferous forests, aspen groves. Varies between areas and seasons. In prairie, uses breaks, badlands and brushy draws. In mountain foothills, Mule Deer are widely distributed in summer in forest and subalpine. In winter use lower elevation open shrub dominated slopes (Pac 1976, Mackie et al. 1982).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at bmaxell@mt.gov or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Bitterbush, mountain mahogany, chokecherry, serviceberry, grasses and forbs. Forbs most important in summer, shrub browse used year-round, most important in fall, winter, and spring. Grass minor item in diet. Food habits vary between years. Forage competition with Elk may be significant at times, not so with cattle, usually not with White-Tailed Deer.

Ecology
Has history of population fluctuations in state. Can cause problems with agriculture when too plentiful. Good winter range critical. Responsive harvest levels may facilitate population stability. Interspecific relationships vary depending on densities and species present.

Reproductive Characteristics
Attain sexual maturity as yearlings. Necks of rutting bucks swell. Reproduction occurs in late November; dominant bucks breed more than one doe. Rutting bucks travel among doe groups tending and breeding females in estrus. Healthy adult bucks shed antlers in January and February. One or two chocolate brown, white-spotted fawns are born in June.

References
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View WorldCat Record   View Online Publication
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