Smithfield Urban Deer

Smithfield Urban Deer: Click for a larger view of Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemionus, Courtesy US FWS, Ryan Moehring, Photographer

Mule DeerOdocoileus hemionus
Courtesy US FWS
Ryan Moehring, Photographer 
As I look out my front window, 7 mule deer are cavorting, feeding, with some lying down for a mid-day siesta. With the final week of the regular season deer hunt winding down, some have taken sanctuary from the nimrods to join the urban herd.

For our 30 years in Smithfield canyon, deer have been regulars, disappearing for the most part from mid-May to mid-June to give birth, as do the bucks, perhaps somewhat embarrassed with strange bumps forming on their crowns.
Spotted fawns begin adorning our lawn in mid-July. With enough speed to outrun all but the fastest predator’s, mom drops her guard a bit. Bucks begin parading their new, fully formed head gear.

As fall and winter approach, the neighborhood herd grows, with a few dozen hanging out when winter finally sets in. Their snow trails through the yard become conspicuous, further defined with sprinkles of fecal material. Out back the steep hillside across Summit Creek becomes a winter playground as small groups run repeatedly up and down and around. Apparently, their abundant stores of energy allow them to break winter’s lethargy. This is generally not the case for deer in the wilds where every calorie is conserved for winter hardships as snow deepens and temperatures plunge.

We’ve witnessed a few humorous behaviors during our 3 decades of observation. Deer are very curious which occasionally works against their best interests. We had an especially aggressive rooster who became our “feathered” watchdog. A small deer herd passing through the front yard noticed the stocky cock guarding the front door and decided on closer inspection. The lead deer approached stretching his neck and tender nose to get a closer whiff. Old roaster rooster gave her a welcoming sharp jab to the nose which sent the herd bounding off.
On another occasion, our tomcat found itself taking refuge under the trampoline as 4 deer approached from a patch of forest. The cat’s movement piqued the deer’s curiosity. They surrounded the trampoline, bent down on front knees with noses poked underneath for a close-up. Poor tom was terrified- to be munched by a deer- what a horrible end!

Of course, we realize that not everyone is enamored with deer in their space. Deer can be a nuisance causing damage to landscapes and gardens. With proper fencing and plant selection, this can be managed. A greater concern is safety, vehicle-deer collisions. Here again, with proper signage, this can be minimized. I’ve experienced close encounters on my bike, so always go slow when deer appear near or on the roadway.
An excellent resource for landscaping is found at Blending a variety of native and ornamental plants into a home landscape can create a highly attractive environment for family, friends, mule deer and other wildlife species. Enhancing the home environment and replacing some of the lost wildlife habitat can be enjoyable and beneficial.

This is Jack Greene for Wild About Utah.

Image: Courtesy US FWS Ryan Moehring, Photographer
Text:     Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Additional Reading:

Copeland, H. E., H. Sawyer, K. L. Monteith, D. E. Naugle, A. Pocewicz, N. Graf, and M. J. Kauffman. 2014.
Conserving migratory mule deer through the umbrella of sage-grouse. Ecosphere 5(9):117.

Mule Deer, Utah Species, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah,

Mule Deer, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources,

Capitol Reef

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

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.

Image: Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek,
Text:     Kurt Repanshek,

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.com

Capital Reef National Park,

Capital Reef National Park,

Mammals in Capital Reef National Park,
Amphibians in Capital Reef National Park,
Fish in Capital Reef National Park,
Birds in Capital Reef National Park,
Reptiles in Capital Reef National Park,

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.


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, Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah,

Ongoing Efforts to Help Utah’s Deer Herds, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah,

Mule Deer Statewide Management Plan, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah,

Mule Deer, Utah Species, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah,

Follow the Bouncing Deer

Image Pending

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

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

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

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.…

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.×00499

Utah Division of Wildlife. 1999. Mule Deer. Wildlife Notebook Series No. 13 [Accessed September 29, 2010]