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Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

Mule Deer


  • Bucks average weight is about 100 kilograms (220 pounds).
  • Average weight for does is about 70 kilograms (155 pounds).


  • Mule deer get their name from their large, mule-like ears.
  • Both male and female mule deer have seasonal colour variations. The coat is greyish-brown in winter and reddish-brown in summer.
  • The thin, brown tail has a black tip and is surrounded by a white rump patch.
  • The antlers of bucks are a distinguishing trait. The beam of each antler divides into two equal tines, and in older bucks these may divide again.
  • Mule deer exhibit a distinct, stiff-legged, bouncing gait when running.
  • Mule deer are found throughout the province, but are most plentiful in southern and western Alberta. They are more common in mountainous areas than white-tailed deer.
Natural History


  • Preferred habitat includes:
    • Edges of coniferous forests
    • Hilly areas
    • Mixed-wood forests


  • Mule deer browse aspen, willow and other shrubs.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • In Alberta, the rut usually occurs in November.
  • One or two spotted fawns are born to each doe the following spring.
Conservation and Management


Mule deer are classified as Secure in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management


See details in the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations. To view the guide online or to order a printed copy, visit the My Wild Alberta website at:

Similar Species
  • White-tailed Deer
    • Mule deer and white-tailed deer are similar in seasonal colouring and overall appearance, and both species possess excellent senses of sight, smell and hearing.
    • Antlers, tails and overall size help distinguish mule and white-tailed deer species from one another:
      • Antlers of white-tailed bucks have unbranched tines extending from single beams, whereas the beams of mule deer antlers divide into two equal tines.
      • White-tailed deer have a broader tail than mule deer, and lack the white rump patch.
      • White-tailed deer are slightly smaller than mule deer.
    • Unlike the wary white-tail, mule deer are often inquisitive. When alarmed and running, they often stop for a last look before bounding out of sight.


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014