Central California Mule Deer

Mule deer buck and doe in grass - a romantic getaway...

The mule deer found in Central California and throughout the West are smaller than the white tail deer found in the eastern United States.

Their coloring is also different, with a sooty gray or blue gray coat.

They get their name from the large mule-like ears which are always moving in the attempt to catch the sound of predators.

They can be found nearly everywhere in this region; the real exception being the treeless grasslands at the eastern part of Central California.

As I mentioned in the How to Drive Backroads page, the deer are quite flighty and can jump out in front of your car without you ever having seen them.

They are quite beautiful and if you visit during the late spring or summer, you might also get to see fawns following their mothers.

During this time it seems that the mothers group up, with several of them sharing domestic duties among them.

Mule deer fawns

You are far more likely to spot does than bucks, but the bucks are seen from time to time. They will form groups both before and after mating season (late autumn).

You can sometimes see the deer grazing in fields of barley or alfalfa, but the trees are never far away.
Mule deer in brush If you wish to photograph any encounters you might have with mule deer along your travels, a good telescopic lens will be required most of the time.

An interesting behavior to watch for is a gait they use when fleeing a perceived danger - they will bounce along on all four legs with all feet touching and leaving the ground simultaneously. A number of quadrupeds use this and it is called either pronking or stotting.

I raise sheep and often see pronking with lambs at play and with adults when I come to feed them.

Lamb pronking at play


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