What’s The Difference Between A Mule Deer And A Blacktail?

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Mule deer and black-tailed deer (collectively known as ‘mule deer’) are known for their uniquely large ears resembling those of a mule, earning them the species name hemionus meaning ‘half-mule’ according to the Mule Deer Foundation.

They have mostly brown-gray coats with visible cream or white colored rumps. Adult mule deer typically range in weight from 125-300lbs, standing around 3.3 feet tall at the shoulder 1. Mule deer are distributed throughout western North America from the coastal islands of Alaska, down the Pacific Coast of California to southern Baja Mexico and from the extreme northern portion of the Mexican state of Zacatecas, northward through the western Great Plains to the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the southern Yukon Territory. Subtle differences in mule deer occur depending on where they live. There have been as many as 11 subspecies of mule deer described.

Black-tailed deer are a subspecies of mule deer found in the coastal regions of northwestern North America from California to Alaska. Black-tailed deer are categorized by two common mule deer subspecies: Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) and Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis3. Columbian blacktails can be found in the coastal areas of northern California, Oregon, Washington, and southern British Columbia, whereas the Sitka subspecies are found on coastal areas of northern British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Black-tailed deer are differentiated by their body and antler size, color, geographical distribution, habitat preference, and even their DNA. Aptly named, the tail of black-tailed deer is black from tip to rump.


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