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 whitetails or may be absent; outside of hind foot has a slit-like scent gland up to seven inches long; mature bucks weigh 250-275 lbs. on good range, does 160-180. 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.
Migratory in mountain-foothill habitats (Mackie et al. 1982).
Grasslands interspersed with brushy coulees or breaks; riparian habitat along prairie rivers; open to dense montane and subalpine coniferous forests, aspen groves (FWP). Varies between areas & seasons. In prairie use Breaks, bad- lands and brushy draws. In mtn-foothills mule deer widely dist. in sum.-in forest & subalpine. In winter use lower elevation open shrub dominated slopes (Mackie et al. 1982, Pac 1976).
Bitterbush, mountain mahogany, chokecherry, serviceberry, grasses and forbs (FWP). Forbs most imp. in sum., shrub browse used yr. rd.-most imp. in fall, win, & spr. Grass minor item in diet. Food habits vary btwn. yrs. Forage compet. w/ elk may be sign. at times, not so w/ cattle, us. not w/ white-tails.
Has hist. of pop. fluctuations in state. Can cause probs. w/ agric. when too plentiful. Good win. range critical. Respon- sive harvest levels may facilitate pop. stability. Interspec ific relat. vary dep. on densities & sp. present .
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.
Citations & Sources
- Foresman, K.R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. Special Publication No. 12. American Society of Mammalogists
- NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. 2002. Version 1.6 . Arlington, Virginia, USA: NatureServe. Available: http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Accessed: March 20, 2003 ).
- O'Gara, B. Identification of Montana's Big Game Animals. Montana Outdoors.