Grazing The Woodlands
Janice Rae Pariza
Photograph - Photograph
A Deer grazing in Yellowstone National Park.
It's said that Lewis and dark gave the mule deer Its name because it reminded them of a deer with large mule-like ears. This is strictly a western animal that lives in every western state and in western Canada. Commonly called the "muley," this deer inhabits more open country than elk, preferring to be in brush and drier country, Nonetheless, muleys are amazingly adaptable and live in habitats from lowland deserts to alpine tundra above timberline.
Mule deer populations are often ravaged by severe winters when deep snows blanket their forage and extreme cold saps their energy. These massive declines are cyclic, and herds bounce back during years of mild winters. Muleys are migratory, often traveling long distances from high summer ranges to lowland winter areas where snow is not as deep and food Is more available.
You can expect to see mule deer anywhere around Yellowstone, but especially in sagebrush areas. In the summer you'll see them high in the mountains, often in fields of wildflowers or along rocky, brushy slopes. Along rural roads you'll often spot them feeding in fields, especially in alfalfa, one of their favorite summer foods. In the
late spring and summer, look for animals with rust-colored fur. In the early morning and late afternoon, they appear to be almost orange. In the fall, this summer coat is shed and deer then take on a gray winter pelt. In sunshine, their distinctive white rumps are often the first thing you'll see.
Unlike male whitetails, the antlers of mature mule deer bucks typically have double forks that are often high and wide. Young bucks may have single, spike-like antlers or small single-forked antlers. Here's where you can see mule deer. In Yellowstone, most deer are seen in the drier habitat from Gardiner and Mammoth out toward the Lamar Valley. The best time to view deer here Is in late fall when they migrate to lower elevations to seek does and find more food. Muleys live in scattered locations in the park, and you're apt to see them anywhere in the summer. Outside the park, look for them in the Driggs-Victor area in Idaho, as well as in the sagebrush country west of Freedom, Wyoming. A prime spot to see them is along the Chief Joseph Highway, especially in the area along the dark Fork River. Another superb region is around Roscoe, Montana, and along the rural roads and farm fields there.
October 16th, 2013
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