A young doe mule deer has lived on our Littleton, Colorado farm over the past year and, this summer, presented us with a spotted fawn. Likely born in June, it did not make an appearance until July and has since bounded around our property, bleating like a lost lamb if it looses touch with its mother. The fawn will continue to nurse and keep its white spots until late summer and will then remain with mom until she is ready to deliver once again; female mule deer usually produce a single fawn with their first pregnancy but thereafter give birth to twins or, occasionally, triplets.
Mule deer are common from the High Plains to the Pacific Coast and from southeast Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta southward into Mexico. Favoring open woodlands and rocky, shrub-covered hillsides, they are easily distinguished from white-tailed deer by their large ears, stocky build and black-tipped tail. Browsers, mule deer feed on a wide variety of plant material including buds, twigs, leaves, fruit, mushrooms, wildflowers and grasses. The annual rut peaks in November and fawns are usually born in June; however, they are kept secluded for their first month of life. Natural predators of adult mule deer are limited primarily to wolves and mountain lions but disease and starvation also cull the herds and their natural life expectancy is about ten years. Young mule deer are especially susceptible to the stress of winter and fawns are often taken by coyotes, bears, bobcats and golden eagles. Of course, mule deer are avidly hunted and many others fall victim to rail or highway traffic.
Our doe and her fawn are certainly welcome to stay at the farm; with the South Platte Greenbelt close by and a large variety of plants on our property, there is little risk of significant damage and their calm demeanor in our presence is always a soothing experience. Next year, we expect twins.