Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A mule deer herd west of Reno

After plenty of snow- and rainfall in northwest Nevada during early spring this year, the sagebrush and grass lands show their fresh greens. At lower elevation, the last snow patches are melting away, providing rich forage supply for mule deer.  The herd above was seen in the hills between Reno and Verdi, about two miles south of the Hole in the Wall.

The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) is named after its large ears, resembling those of mules. They need to hear well to get alarmed in time when a mountain lion is near by. The pictured deer have a white muzzle contrasting with their dark nose. The tail is white, but black at the tip. Bucks develop antlers in summer, consisting of two upward-angled beams that fork twice into total of four points per beam [1].

Mule deer is indigeneous to western North America from Alaska and Western Canada through the Rocky Mountains and Western Plains States to Northwestern Mexico and Baja California [2].Various subspecies exist.While some migrate, others stay close to their home range. A deer herd migration corridor passes through the land west of Reno, connecting the Carson Range and Peavine area. After a Verdi/Boomtown fire in 2006, which burned 6,000 acres, it was feared that big-number deer herds would belong to the past [3].

The question is what a big number is and how many smaller, separated herds account for a big herd? This spring, obviously, smaller herds are frequenting the corridor. And it doesn't seem like they are much in a hurry.

Keywords: hoofed mammals, even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla), wildlife, migrating animals

References and more
[1] Peter Alden and Fred Heath: Field Guide to California. Chanticleer Press, Inc and Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, Seventh Printing 2007; page 368.
[2] Odocoileus hemionus [www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/42393/0].
[3] Is the Nevada Deer Herd Doomed? [www.theoutdoorsforum.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=6078].

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