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Mule Deer Facts

Mule deer are recognized as one of the quintessential icons of hunting in the American West, but I'll bet there's a few things you didn't know about them. Here are a handful of mule deer facts we think you'll find fascinating.

Legs

Mule Deer Bounding
  • The trademark, bounding, pogo-stick-style gait of mule deer is called "stotting" and gives them the ability to change direction (or even completely reverse direction) on a dime.

  • With each bound, mule deer may jump as high as 2 feet and as far as 15 feet.

  • Mule deer can run at speeds of up to 40 mph for short distances.

  • The average distance mule deer travel when startled is about 900 meters, although they may go up to 4 miles before stopping.

Eyes

Mule Deer Eyes
  • Because the eyes of mule deer are located on the sides of their heads, they can see a 310 degree view around themselves.

  • Mule deer have better nighttime vision than humans, but poorer daytime and color vision.

  • Mule deer can detect slight predator movement up to 600 meters away, but they are not very good at detecting motionless forms.

Ears

Mule Deer Ears
  • The ear canals of mule deer are actually about the same size as a human's, but their ears can be up to 9 inches long, allowing them to gather sound far more efficiently.

  • Mule deer can hear sounds in a much wider frequency range than we can, enabling them to detect high-pitched sounds that humans cannot hear.

  • Mule deer can swivel their ears in any direction, allowing them to listen for danger from behind.

Nose

Mule Deer Smelling the Air
  • Some biologists estimate that a mule deer's sense of smell is up to 1,000 times stronger than a human's.

  • Research suggests that a mule deer can detect human odor at up to a half mile away.

  • A mule deer's nose can detect water that is up to two feet below ground.

Water

Mule Deer Swimming
  • Mule deer have particularly large hooves, which allow them to efficiently dig for underground water sources.

  • Mule deer are excellent swimmers and can swim at speeds up to 13 mph, although they rarely use this skill.

  • Mule deer hair is hollow and filled with air; this gives them insulation from the cold, but it also provides added buoyancy when swimming.

Antlers

Mule Deer Antlers
  • The largest mule deer rack on record measured in at almost 31 inches across.

  • Mule deer antler size is not directly related to age -- a relatively young buck could have an enormous rack, while some old bucks have racks that are not all that impressive.

  • Mule deer antler sheds provide a number of animals with an important source of calcium -- mice, coyotes, and elk all chew on them year-round.

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