We have all seen the Black-tailed deer throughout the park, but did you know that the Black-tailed deer is really a Mule deer? Well, a subspecies of the Mule deer. There are actually six subspecies of the Mule deer that live in the Pacific States. The Black-tail deer found in the park is the same Black-tail that ranges from Central California in the coastal mountains up through Oregon and Washington, mostly west of the summit of the Cascade mountains. Most subspecies of the Mule deer have short tails with a rounded cross-section which are white all the way around with a black tip. But our Black-tail deer here have a dark brown back or (dorsal) surface with the black tip. All the subspecies have branched antlers and they shed their antlers every year and grow new ones. They have antlers not horns. Horns like the big horned sheep never fall off and continue to grow for the life of the animal. When antlers regrow every year they are in a stage called velvet which supplies nutrients to the growing antler. Once the antler stops growing the velvet dries up and falls off. This period can be very irritating to the deer so they try and rub the dried velvet off the antlers by rubbing their antlers on vegetation and trees around the park. See if you can find these “rubs”, they can be found everywhere around the park. Oh and when the antler falls off its always fun to try and find the shed antlers on the ground!!!
Usually the deer we all see are the younger smaller deer in the park, but there are some monster deer out there. They are the older and smarter deer and tend to live a more nocturnal life avoiding people. These black-tail deer are what biologists life to call browsers. They like to eat the young new shoots of native vegetation. That’s why you can see browse lines on vegetation all over the park. See if you can find these browse lines. They are particularly noticeable on any old fruit trees you can find.
Remember these are wild animals and although you can sometimes get pretty close to the young ones they can be very dangerous. So be sure to enjoy these animals from a safe distance.