DEER IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The Mule Deer, named for its large ears, makes the mountains and deserts of Southern California its home. Three of the largest local subspecies include the California Mule Deer, the Southern Mule Deer and the Burro Deer, all of which share the same black-tipped tails and forked antlers.
Local deer like the California Mule Deer prefer hilly terrain, taking most of its diet from shrub leaves and grasses. In summer, Mule Deer not only consume leaves but also berries. In winter, they feed on conifers. They tend to forage close to lakes or streams, roaming within a two mile range. Although Mule Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, they may sometimes forage at night in open agricultural areas. Inactivity during the heat of day has helped the deer adapt to warmer Southern California environments.
Rutting (mating) season is in autumn, at which time antlered males compete for mates. Fawns arrive
in late spring, remaining with their mothers through the summer and then weaned in autumn. Buck’s shed their antlers in winter, after rutting season, but antlers begin to grow back in the spring, fully formed in time for the next rutting season.
As prey for mountain lions, coyote and even bobcats, Mule Deer play an important role in the Southern California food chain. Run-ins with cars, however, throw off that balance.
Although the Mule Deer like the Burro Deer might not be that colorful, its gray-buff color helps blend in with the desert environment, to disguise itself from predators. It’s unique bounding leap, all four feet hitting the ground together, helps reach speeds of 45 mph in a short period of time.
For Mule Deer in the mountains, winter temperatures force migrations from higher elevations to lower ones. For the desert Mule Deer, rainfall patterns may influence migration.
Although Southern California deer have been quick to adjust to the expansion of human communities, populations still decline when habitat destruction is extensive enough.