California mule deer



This subspecies, O. h. californicus, is widespread throughout northern and central California in the California coastal prairie, as well as inner coastal ranges and interior mountains, especially the Sierra Nevada. This deer is much less frequently found on the floor of the interior valleys, and then mostly frequently in riparian zones.

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Generally, the California mule deer has a preference for hill terrain, especially an oak woodland habitat. It is a browser and typically takes over 90% of its diet from shrubs and leaves and the balance from grasses.

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Habits and Lifestyle

Diet and Nutrition

California mule deer usually browse close to lakes or streams providing their water. From that water source, they may roam 1-2 mi, and typically make their beds in grassy areas beneath trees within such a one-mile radius from both water and forage.

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Repeatedly used beds often are scratched to a nearly level surface, about 2 m in diameter. Less regularly used bedding areas are seen as flattened grass. On hot summer days, California mule deer often seek shade and rest in the midday.

In summer, California mule deer mainly browse on leaves of small trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, but also consume many types of berries (including blackberry, huckleberry, salal, and thimbleberry). In winter, they may expand their forage to conifers (particularly twigs of Douglas fir), aspen, willow, dogwood, juniper, and sage. Year-round, they feed on acorns; grasses are a secondary food source. Where humans have encroached on historic deer habitat by suburban development or orchards, California mule deer diversify their diet with garden plant material, tree fruit, and occasionally, pet food.

Fawns and does tend to forage together in familial groupings, while bucks tend to travel singly or with other bucks. California mule deer browse most actively near dawn and dusk, but also forage at night in open agricultural areas or when experiencing hunting pressure.

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Mating Habits

Rutting season occurs in autumn when the does come into estrus for a period lasting only several days. Males exhibit aggressive behavior in competing for mates. Does begin estrus again if they do not become pregnant. The gestation period is about 200 days, with fawns arriving in the spring; the young remain with mothers throughout the summer and are weaned in the autumn. The buck's antlers fall off in the winter, and commence growing once more in spring in anticipation of next autumn's rut.



1. California mule deer Wikipedia article -

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