Mule Deer Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

When you hear the name 'mule deer,' do you think of an animal that's more like a mule or a deer? In this lesson, find out about the mule deer, which lives throughout the western part of North America.

What are Mule Deer?

You may know that there's an animal called a deer and another called a mule. But we're talking about the mule deer, which live throughout western North America in deserts, wooded areas, and mountains. Mule deer are a kind of deer, but they're called 'mule deer' because of their big ears that look like they could belong to a mule.

The ears help them hear incredibly well so that they can protect themselves from predators like lions, coyotes, and bears. Mule deer have another cool trick to get away from these predators: They run by stotting, which is when all four feet leave the ground at the same time. This allows them to move swiftly through rocky land. Mule deer are picky eaters, choosing the shrubs and herbs that are the healthiest instead of just eating whatever they see.

Male and female mule deer
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What Do Mule Deer Look Like?

Like people and cows, mule deer are mammals. This group of animals shares certain characteristics, like having a backbone, hair, and mothers who nurse their babies with milk from mammary glands. Fully grown mule deer weigh about the same human adults--usually between 130 and 280 pounds.

Mule deer are know to change colors--they are tan and brown during the summer but turn gray and brown in the winter. These animals also have white tails with black on the end, a white area on their behinds, and black fur on their foreheads.

Another thing you might notice about mule deer is that some have antlers and some do not. The male mule deer, called bucks, are the ones with antlers. They lose their antlers in the winter and then grow new ones each year. We call the female mule deer, which are smaller than males and have no antlers, does.

The Life of a Mule Deer

Baby mule deer, or fawns, are usually born at the beginning of the summer. For the first few weeks, the spotted babies hide while the mother is away getting food. After this period, the babies and the mothers go out together and the fawns lose their spots. Female mule deer and their children live together in groups. Every fall, they team up to make a larger herd for the winter, but then they separate in the spring.

Herd of mule deer
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