Capitol Reef

Fruita and the Wingate Cliffs
Capitol Reef National Park
Photo Courtesy US NPS

Orchard
Capitol Reef National Park
Photo Courtesy US NPS

Early settlers to the landscape we know as Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah planted cherry, apricot, peach, pear, apple, and walnut trees as a cash crop for survival along the Fremont River bottoms. Visitors today are often surprised by the fruit trees in light of the surrounding desert climate, and campers can pick apples and peaches from their campsites in the orchards. But the green fields and fruit trees also attract deer, marmots, and other small critters, which are easy to spot and are comfortable with humans in their environment.

Though the deer roam free in the tall grass between apple trees, there are other species that are a bit more dangerous lurking nearby. Mountain lions and black bears skillfully stalk around this historic district of Fruita without being seen. Mountain lions have been spotted within a half-mile of the popular campground, yet little is known about the species within the confines of Capitol Reef. With so many questions unanswered about the predator and prey relationship in the unique landscape, the park has received a Disney Nature Impact Grant to enlighten us.

Lori Rome, the park’s chief of interpretation, says, “We are setting up 10-20 infrared motion detected camera traps in surrounding areas. This is a non-invasive way to learn basic information about the species.”

The cameras will provide useful evidence and reveal the patterns of the quiet predators in the park. The public will be engaged through a citizen science project using social media and public interpretive programming, for example helping to survey deer populations.

If you’ve seen Disney Nature’s movie Bears, you, too, helped contribute to the Disney Nature Impact Grants program. Fourteen national parks are receiving funding via proceeds from the movie. Disney Nature has pledged a contribution to the National park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, for each person who saw the film during its first week in theaters.

This type of support helps preserve and protect Capitol Reef and the rest of the National Park System. The Disney Nature Impact Grant enables parks to conduct much-needed conservation projects, such as studying mountain lions at Capitol Reef.

Each park selected to receive a grant through this program had to demonstrate a clear need for the money, and how it would make a profound difference in habitat restoration, wildlife protection or conservation research. With this assistance, we should be able understand predator’s actions in Capitol Reef National Park.

For Wild About Utah and National Parks Traveler, I’m Kurt Repanshek.

Credits:
Image: Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, www.nationalparkstraveler.com
Text:     Kurt Repanshek, NationalParksTraveler.com.


Additional Reading:

Capitol Reef And 13 Other National Parks Receive Impact Grants From Disney Nature’s Movie “Bears”, Submitted by Carli Jones, June 26, 2014, NationalParksTraveler.comhttp://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2014/06/capitol-reef-and-13-other-national-parks-receive-impact-grants-disney-natures-movie-bears25263

Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/park/capitol-reef-national-park

Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/index.htm

Mammals in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/mammalchecklist.htm
Amphibians in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/amphibians.htm
Fish in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/fish.htm
Birds in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/birds.htm
Reptiles in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/reptiles.htm

Mule Deer

Mule Deer Herd
Odocoileus hemionus
Photo Courtesy US FWS

Mule Deer Herd
Odocoileus hemionus
Photo Courtesy US FWS
Gary Zahm, Photographer

Mule Deer Herd
Odocoileus hemionus
Photo Courtesy US FWS
David Heffernan, Photographer

Hi, this is Mark Larese-Casanova from the Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.

It’s that time of year again, the leaves have fallen from the trees, the snowy holidays are on their way, and love is in the air for one of Utah’s vital wildlife species. Odocoileus hemionus, commonly known as Mule Deer are the smallest members of the Cervid family in Utah, after moose and elk. Their name is derived from their large ears which resemble those of a mule.

Mule deer have a coat that ranges from dark grey, to a lighter tan color, a white rump patch, and tail with a black tip.

In the months of November and December Mule deer are active in their breeding season known as the rut. During the summer and early fall males will typically live away from does and fawns, and begin to “play” fight with other males to establish a hierarchy of dominance. Once the rut begins males will seek out does, and become more aggressive and compete with one another for females to breed with. The less dominant males are usually aware of their status, and will be chased away by larger bucks. However males that are similar in size will posture to one another, lock antlers and fight to establish breeding rights with the doe.

Mule deer are not monogamous in nature. Males will breed with any female that will accept them. Does can also breed with multiple bucks, providing the possibility of multiple births from different fathers. The receptive period for does is known as estrus, and typically lasts for less than a day, and sometimes only a few hours. If the first estrus cycle is missed does can go through another cycle in about four weeks. When the rut comes to an end, bucks will return to being solitary until they shed their antlers in late winter.

In Utah, does typically give birth in June and will leave the herd to be alone. The older does commonly have twins, while younger does have only one fawn. After the fawns are born the cycle of life starts again.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Mark Larese-Casanova.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy US FWS, Gary Zahn and David Heffernan, Photographers
Text:     Mary Jackson, Justin Hicken, Utah State University


Additional Reading:

LEARN MORE, Find out more about mule deer and what the DWR is doing to help them, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, http://wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/learn-more/mule-deer.html

UTAH DIVISION OF WILDLIFE RESOURCES, STATEWIDE MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR MULE DEER, http://wildlife.utah.gov/hunting/biggame/pdf/mule_deer_plan.pdf

Mule Deer, Utah Conservation Data Center, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/Search/Display.asp?FlNm=odochemi

Follow the Bouncing Deer

Image Pending

Image Pending

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Mule deer are frequent visitors to our yard in Providence. I love their large liquid eyes and their huge questioning ears.

What I don’t like is that they eat our garden and stunt our trees. So when I find them munching, I fling open the back door and run toward them, yelling and flapping my arms –often in my nightshirt. In response, they bounce, bounce, bounce away. That is, they employ a springy gait that biologists call stotting. What possible benefit is it to bounce like? Why don’t they just run?

When a mule deer or pronghorn or bighorn stotts, it keeps the right and left forelegs close together and likewise the hindlegs. During the jump, all four legs leave the ground simultaneously and land simultaneously. In between landings all four legs are stiff and straight.

In between jumps the animal is suspended in the air for 64% of the entire length of one stride. You would think that the energy required to keep the animal in the air could be better used to propel forward. In other words, wouldn’t a fast horizontal run be a better way to keep a coyotes teeth out of your rump? Or– in the case of our backyard– to distance yourself from a wild looking woman waiving her arms and yelling.

One researcher clocked the speeds of galloping vs. stotting mule deer. Surprisingly, the fastest speeds of a stotting mule deer were just as fast as top galloping speeds—around 9.5 meters per second. That’s over 21 miles per hour.

There are lots of opinions on why stotting evolved. But most experts agree it is a response to predators.

Some say that stotting is a signal to predators that deer is healthy and will be able to outrun the predator. Thus, the deer is sending a “Don’t waste your time” message.

Many believe that stotting delivers an advantage on rugged open terrain. Stotters can clear rocks, logs and brush more effectively than gallopers.

Stotting might also be an anti-ambush behavior. The height gained during stotting allows the mule deer to check the surrounding vegetation along their escape path. Crouching coyotes, wolves and mountain lions are detected and avoided.

Whatever the reason—and there may not be just one–those bouncing deer are fun to watch.

For sources and archives of past Wild About Utah programs, go to www.wildaboututah.org.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.

Credits:
Photo: Courtesy US FWS Digital Media, Jack Woody Photographer
Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand

Sources & Additional Reading

Caro, T.M. 1986. The functions of stotting: a review of the hypotheses. Animal Behaviour Vol. 34, No. 3. Pp. 649-662. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?…

Lingle, Susan. 1992. Escape gaits of white-tailed deer, mule deer and their hybrids: Gaits observed and patterns of limb coordination. Behaviour Vol. 122 No. 3-4. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/beh/1992/00000122/F0020003/art00002

Utah Division of Wildlife. 1999. Mule Deer. Wildlife Notebook Series No. 13
wildlife.utah.gov/publications/pdf/2010_mule_deer.pdf [Accessed September 29, 2010]