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Deer are the most common and easily the most popular big game species in North America. But despite their widespread presence, however, many people need to be made aware that there are actually a few different types of deer that can be found. From the swamps of southern Florida to the snow-capped mountains of Alaska, there are multiple species of deer on this continent and each has its own unique characteristics. Let’s look at all the different types of deer and where you can find them!
The white-tailed deer is by far the most widespread and iconic of all of the North American deer species. They get their name from their distinctive white tails that are very visible when they are spooked and running away. This helps to warn other deer in the area of nearby danger. These deer can be found in a wide range of different habitats and locations, running through most of the United States as well as parts of Mexico, Canada, and even down through Central America.
White-tailed deer will typically weigh between 100 to 300 pounds and stand 3 to 3.5 feet at the shoulder. These deer are excellent at living in suburban areas, which is one of the reasons their populations continue to thrive and grow. It’s not uncommon to see them in yards and agricultural fields. This is the species of deer that most people are familiar with, and they are very adaptable and able to live just about anywhere.
Mule deer are another common species of deer that is only found in the western half of North America. These deer are an icon of the West, and get their name from their large, mule-like ears. These ears are very sensitive and can rotate independently in order to pick up sounds from nearby predators, as well as dissipate heat during the warmer months.
Mule deer are a little larger than white-tailed deer and will weigh anywhere from 100 to 400 pounds and stand around 3.5 feet at the shoulder. These deer have adapted to live in arid and semi-arid environments and are darker in color than white-tailed deer in order to blend in with their environments better. They can live in the low deserts of Arizona to the high mountain peaks of Colorado and everywhere in between. Unlike white-tailed deer, however, they are not as quick to adapt to human presence and their populations are declining in areas with larger human populations.
Sticking to the western portions of the continent, the black-tailed deer is a subspecies of mule deer found along the Pacific coast, ranging from Alaska to California. Like the white-tailed deer, they get their name from their tails which have distinctive black tips that separate them from mule deer. While not as widespread as mule deer, they are extremely populous in the areas that they call home and have adapted well to their environments.
Black-tailed deer are a hair smaller than mule deer, despite having a very similar appearance. Most black-tailed deer will be anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds and stand 3 to 3.5 feet tall at the shoulder. Their antlers also look very similar to mule deer but overall smaller. These deer have adapted to live in more humid environments along the coast and thrive in the thick forests and rain forests that they call home in and around the Pacific Northwest.
If black-tailed deer are the smaller cousins of mule deer, then coues deer are the smaller cousins of white-tailed deer. Coues deer are a very small subspecies of white-tailed deer that are only found in secluded areas of Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. They are named after Elliott Coues, a renowned naturalist and Army surgeon who first described the species during his travels of the Southwest.
Coues deer are extremely small and are one of the smallest deer species in North America. They will typically weigh between 70 to 120 pounds when fully grown, and will only stand around 2.5 to 3 feet tall at the shoulder. Their small size helps them to thrive in the hot and arid deserts and low forests that they call home in the southwest. They can go long periods of time without any water and are known for being extremely skittish due to being so small and preyed upon by various predators.
Sitka deer are a subspecies of black-tailed deer and can be found in coastal regions of Alaska, British Columbia, and small sections of Washington state. They get their name from the city of Sitka, a city in southeastern Alaska, where they are commonly found. Sitka deer look extremely similar to black-tailed deer or mule deer, albeit a little smaller in body size and antlers.
Sitka deer will weigh around 90 to 250 pounds when fully grown and stand 3 to 3.5 feet at the shoulder. They look just like black-tailed deer except a little smaller and stockier with much smaller antlers which help them endure colder winters in the areas they call home. These deer are very abundant on the islands off the coast and have evolved to be able to swim long distances between different islands. Although they are not as widespread as mule deer or black-tailed deer, they are very adaptable and have thriving populations in the coastal regions in which they live.
Each deer species in North America is incredibly unique with its own physical characteristics, habitats, behaviors, and hunting seasons. From the widespread white-tailed deer coexisting with humans to the mule deer and coues deer that live in hard-to-reach mountain ranges, each different type of deer is unique and special, especially the sounds they make. Learning about the different types of deer found in North America is not only interesting but can help play a vital role in identifying them out in the wild and begin planning a hunt!
For a related blog about What Deer Poop Looks Like, we have that too!