As I’m a Utahan born and raised and I’ve noticed the recent influx on Whitetail deer in a Mule Deer range so I thought I’d compare the two cousins for everyone.
Whitetail deer could be described as having a reddish-brown coat in the spring that becomes more of a grayish-brown during the fall and winter. They got their name for the white underside of it’s tail. They stand about three feet tall with the buck weighing in around 130-220 lbs. and the doe coming in anywhere from 90-200 lbs. The mule deer is generally a grayish brown year round. The mule deer gets its name from the size of its mule-like ears. Mule deer have a white rump patch around tail, which is thinner than the broad tail of the whitetail, and has a black tip. The mule deer stand three to three and a half feet tall at the shoulder, with bucks weighing 125-250 lbs. and does weighing in between 100 and 150 pounds.
The whitetail bucks re-grow their antlers every year and they consist of a main beam with prongs off of it. Bucks less than two years of age typically have short spiked antlers consisting of just the main beam. Antlers begin to grow in late spring; covered with a tissue known as velvet. Bucks shed their antlers when all females have been bred, from late December to February.
With mule deer the antlers are generally also only found only on bucks, but they begin growing in late winter and will reach full growth by late summer. Developing antlers are covered with a velvet which supplies blood and nutrients to the developing bone. The velvet is shed by early fall and the antlers harden. The antlers have a main beam which splits or forks into two
branches with each branch or tine (point) being approximately the same length. Antlers are shed yearly, usually by late December.
With both species antler points cannot be used to determine the age of a deer, however
with proper nutrition, older deer generally have larger antlers with more points than do younger deer.
The whitetail is a much older species being around for over 4 million years, where the muley has only been around for about 15,000. Throughout this time the whitetail has become a much more resilient species and are very resistant to parasites and diseases, in fact whitetail carry many diseases that mule deer are very susceptible to. The whitetail also has a very high reproductive rate with nearly equal buck to doe ratios and doe fawns able to breed their first fall, where mule deer have a very low buck to doe ratio and their doe fawns take much longer to mature. In the same environment the whitetail outcompete the muley’s for food and the hybridization greatly favors the whitetail with whitetail hybrids (white tail buck, mule deer doe) being strong and muley hybrids generally dying at birth (mule deer buck, white tail doe).
For these reasons and more the whitetail are rapidly closing in on the mule deer ranges. In fact the whitetail are starting to displace mule deer in Idaho, Montana, and Canada and the Mule deer ranges are significantly smaller than their historic ranges. And with an estimated population of 200 animals here in Utah (expected to double yearly) the whitetails are looking to displace our beloved muley here in Utah as well.
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