In the article “Mule Deer Vs. White-tailed Deer – 8 Key Differences,” Wildlife Informer explores the distinct characteristics that set apart these two popular deer species in North America. While mule deer and white-tailed deer may look similar at first glance, there are several noticeable differences between them. From size variations to color patterns, antler size, and habitat preferences, this article provides an informative comparison that will help readers easily identify and differentiate between these two majestic species. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy learning about the fascinating distinctions between mule deer and white-tailed deer.
Mule deer and white-tailed deer are similar in many ways, but one of the most noticeable differences between the two is their size. Mule deer are generally larger than white-tailed deer. Adult bucks can weigh between 120 and 300 pounds, with an average weight of around 200 pounds. Mule deer can range in size from 4 to 7 feet in length from nose to tail. The average mule deer doe weighs around 150 pounds, though they can weigh anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds. On the other hand, white-tailed deer size can vary significantly depending on their range and habitat. Bucks typically weigh between 150 and 300 pounds, with an average weight below 200 pounds. White-tailed deer does average around 100 pounds. Overall, mule deer have a larger bone structure and are thicker through their body and neck, with a bigger muzzle compared to white-tailed deer.
In terms of color patterns, mule deer and white-tailed deer have some distinct differences. During the summer, they may appear very similar, but in winter, the color differences become more apparent. Mule deer will have a darker brown coat with more gray patterns, while white-tailed deer have coats of reddish-brown with white on their throats, around their eyes and nose, and under their stomachs. White-tailed deer fur can also get grayer during wintertime. The light or darkness of their coat depends on their surroundings, as both deer have colors that help them blend into their environment. They differ in the colors on their underbelly, neck, and back end area.
One of the easiest ways to distinguish between mule deer and white-tailed deer is by looking at their ear size. Mule deer have much larger ears than white-tailed deer. Mule deer are named for their large “mule-like” ears, which are thought to help them dissipate body heat in hot desert environments. These large ears also assist them in hearing predators approaching from a distance. In contrast, white-tailed deer have rounder and smaller ears. Both species can move and rotate their ears to hear their surroundings, but the size difference is noticeable.
Rump Color and Tails
When it comes to rump color and tails, mule deer and white-tailed deer have different characteristics. The underside of a white-tailed deer’s tail is white, and when they run from danger, they lift their tail as a flag, hence their name. Mule deer also have white on their rump, but with their tails down, mule deer have more visible white than white-tailed deer. However, when running, white-tailed deer display much more white on their “flag tail” compared to mule deer. Additionally, mule deer have more black on their tail than white-tailed deer, and their tails are narrower and smaller.
The size of a deer’s antlers can vary depending on factors such as age, habitat, and diet. Mule deer generally have larger antlers than white-tailed deer. Mule deer antlers tend to fork in two directions as they grow, creating a wide and tall set, while white-tailed deer antlers are generally smaller, with tines that do not grow in the same way.
Habitat and Ranges
In terms of habitat and range, white-tailed deer have a wider distribution compared to mule deer. White-tailed deer can be found all over North America, from the eastern U.S. to Canada, Mexico, Central America, and even South America. They have evolved to adapt to various habitats, including swamps, mountains, forests, and plains. White-tailed deer are also known for their ability to constantly expand into new areas. On the other hand, mule deer are more common in the western part of North America and prefer higher elevations. They inhabit more open areas and plains, and tend to avoid areas of human development.
The behavior of mule deer and white-tailed deer also differs in various ways. White-tailed deer are more cautious and skittish compared to mule deer. When faced with danger, white-tailed deer run very fast, and they are known for their ability to bounce and jump with ease. This behavior, called “stotting,” allows them to evade predators quickly. White-tailed deer are smaller and more agile, easily maneuvering over fences and obstacles. On the other hand, mule deer are larger and more lumbering in their escape. They trot and gallop more than they prance, bounce, and jump. While both species can jump fences, mule deer are not as agile and graceful as white-tailed deer. Additionally, mule deer bucks are generally less aggressive than white-tailed deer bucks.
In terms of lifespan, mule deer generally live longer than white-tailed deer. On average, mule deer live around 9 to 11 years in the wild, while white-tailed deer have a lifespan of 4 to 6 years in the wild. However, it is important to note that white-tailed deer can live longer in captivity, with many individuals living well over 10 years old. In contrast, mule deer in captivity can live up to 20 years.
Apart from the aforementioned differences, mule deer and white-tailed deer also have variations in their physical characteristics. Mule deer have a larger bone structure compared to white-tailed deer, along with a larger muzzle. Their bodies and necks are thicker, giving them a more muscular appearance.
White-tailed deer have a tendency to constantly expand into new areas. This expansion can be observed across North America, where white-tailed deer have successfully inhabited several Canadian provinces as well as Mexico, Central America, and South America. They have shown remarkable adaptability to various habitats and continue to increase their range.
In conclusion, while mule deer and white-tailed deer may appear similar at first glance, there are several key differences that set them apart. These differences include size, color patterns, ear size, rump color and tails, antler size, habitat and range, behavior, lifespan, and physical characteristics. By understanding these differences, wildlife enthusiasts and hunters can easily identify these two species of deer and appreciate their unique traits.