Utah Field Guide – Mule deer

Recognized as one of the quintessential icons of the American West, the mule deer is the most valued big game animal in Utah. The trademark, bounding, pogo-stick-style gait of mule deer is called “stotting” and gives them the ability to change direction on a dime. Some biologists estimate that a mule deer’s sense of smell is up to 1,000 times stronger than a human’s and research suggests that a mule deer can detect human odor up to a half mile away.

By the turn of the 19th century, mule deer became scare because of unregulated hunting. As wildlife management took hold in the 1920 and 30’s, mule deer numbers rebounded and by the 50’s and 60’s, we had record numbers of deer in the west. But, the abundance didn’t last. The decline of quality habitat due to urbanization, fire depression, drought and many other factors has seen mule deer numbers drop below their historic numbers.

The Division of Wildlife Resources is working on several mule-deer related research projects across Utah. Some of the questions they hope to answer are: How and why are mule deer fawns dieing. What effect does the coyote have on fawn survival? And how many deer are killed by vehicles each year. For more information on the DWR studies, log onto wildlife.utah.gov.

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