If you’re a hunter or wildlife enthusiast, you may have encountered deer in the wild and wondered what species you were looking at. Two common types of deer found in North America are the white-tailed deer and the mule deer. Although these species may look similar at first glance, there are some key differences that can help you identify them. In this article, we’ll explore how to tell white-tailed deer and mule deer apart.
Body Size and Shape
One of the most obvious differences between white-tailed deer and mule deer is their body size and shape. White-tailed deer tend to be smaller and more compact than mule deer, with a body length of 4-6 feet and a height of 3-4 feet at the shoulder. Mule deer, on the other hand, are larger and more robust, with a body length of 4.5-7 feet and a height of 3.5-5 feet at the shoulder.
Another distinguishing feature between white-tailed deer and mule deer is their tails. White-tailed deer have a tail that is brown on the top and white on the bottom, with a narrow, pointed shape. When they run, they often flash their tails up, revealing the white underside. In contrast, mule deer have a tail that is more square-shaped and all brown, with no white underside. The tail of a mule deer is also longer than that of a white-tailed deer, measuring up to 8-10 inches in length.
Antler Shape and Size
Both white-tailed deer and mule deer have antlers, but the shape and size of the antlers can also help you tell them apart. White-tailed deer have antlers that are more slender and taller, with a single main beam that splits into several points. Their antlers are usually symmetrical, with similar points on each side. Mule deer, on the other hand, have antlers that are wider and more compact, with multiple points that branch off from a main beam. Their antlers are often asymmetrical, with different numbers of points on each side.
Habitat and Range
The final difference between white-tailed deer and mule deer is their habitat and range. White-tailed deer are found throughout most of the eastern and central United States, as well as in parts of Mexico and Canada. They tend to live in wooded areas and are more adaptable to human development. Mule deer, on the other hand, are found primarily in the western United States and parts of Mexico, with a range that extends into Canada. They prefer open, arid environments and are less tolerant of human disturbance.
If you’re trying to tell the difference between white-tailed deer and mule deer, look for differences in body size and shape, tail characteristics, antler shape and size, and habitat and range. While these two species may share some similarities, their unique features make them easy to distinguish with a little bit of practice and observation. Whether you’re a hunter or a wildlife enthusiast, being able to identify different deer species can help you better understand and appreciate the natural world around you.