Ungulates (Hoofed Animals)

A white-tailed deer standing in a winter forest
White-tailed deer can be seen in any season throughout the park. This doe is standing at the edge of an oak thicket and the prairie dog town.


Deer (Cervidae)

Deer are the most common large animal seen here at Devils Tower. There are two species found at the park year round, the white-tailed and mule deer. Both of these animals can be seen near the park road or along the Tower Trail and other hikes.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

  • Seen all over the park especially in the tall grass where they like to bed down
  • Adults 150–250 pounds; 3½ feet at the shoulder
  • Fur is russet color in summer and a gray-brown in winter. Belly and underside of tail are white year round
  • Waves tail like a white flag when fleeing
  • Males grow antlers around May until August; shed them in early to late winter
  • Mating season (rut) peaks in November; fawns born usually in late May or June
  • Eats shrubs, forbs, grasses; conifers in spring
  • Predators include wolves, coyotes, cougars, and bears
A mule deer lounging in the grass
Mule deer often lay down in areas with high grass, camouflaging well. Their larger ears are one of the distinctions between this species and white-tailed deer.


Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

  • Male (buck): 150–250 pounds; female (doe): 100–175 pounds; 3½ feet at the shoulder
  • Fur coat stays similar light brown color throughout the year; tail has a black tip
  • Males grow antlers from April or May until August or September; shed them in late winter and spring
  • Mating season (rut) in November and December; fawns born late May to early August
  • Lives in brushy areas, coniferous forests, grasslands
  • Bounding gait, when four feet leave the ground, enables it to move more quickly through shrubs and rock fields
  • Eats shrubs, forbs, grasses; conifers in spring
  • Predators include wolves, coyotes, cougars, and bears
A Mule Deer on the with white rear compared to a White-Tailed Deer on the right with brown rear.
A comparison between mule deer (left) and white-tailed deer (right)


Difference Between Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer

The best way to determine whether you have a white tail deer or a mule deer is to look at their face and hind end.

Mule Deer White-Tailed Deer
Face mostly light brown More white around nose and ears
Much larger ears at a greater angle from head Ears smaller, more upright, and rounded
Antlers are bifurcated, forking multiple times Antlers grow from a single main beam
Bounding gait, hopping with all four feet simultaneously Running gait, galloping when moving quickly
Have a black tip on their tail which stays lowered Larger tail which raises to show white underside when on alert

Learn more about our most common Deer's mating and reproduction through this excellent article.

A young elk with new antlers behind trees and a fence line
This young elk is frustrated by a fence near the park boundary. Although he was able to find a way through, fences are a major issue for migratory species that once enjoyed uninhibited travel.

NPS trail cam

Elk (Cervus canadensis)

  • Male (bull): 700 pounds; female (cow): 500 pounds; 4-5 feet at the shoulder
  • Antlers can be 4 feet long and weigh 40 pounds
  • Fur a reddish brown color, thicker in winter; males grow a thin "mane" around neck
  • Male mating call, known as bugling, can be heard for miles
  • Stay in single-sex groups for most of year, except during mating season
  • Tend to graze (eat low vegetation) more than other deer, who browse (eat higher vegetation)
  • Rarely seen in the park, but live throughout the Black Hills
  • Predators are mountain lions and coyotes; can include wolves and bears
A small group of pronghorn grazing through a field in winter
Pronghorn herd in Capulin Volcano National Monument. The animal in the center is monitoring a possible threat (the photographer) for the rest of the group.


Other Hoofed Animals

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

Commonly called antelope, pronghorn are unique to North America and are not related to antelope at all. In fact, their closest living genetic relative (though still distant) is the giraffe! They do fill a similar ecological role as antelope found in Africa. Although not commonly seen within park boundaries, you will likely see them in open fields along highways as you travel the area.

  • Can run 60 miles per hour
  • Male (buck) weighs 100–125 pounds; female (doe) weighs 90–110 pounds; adult length is 45–55 inches and height is 35–40 inches at shoulder
  • Coats are reddish brown, but feature white stomachs and wide, white stripes on their throats
  • Can raise the hair on their rumps as a warning which other pronghorn can see for miles
  • Average life span: 7–10 years
  • Both sexes have distinctive pronged horns
  • Grow an antler "sheath" over their horns
  • They eat grass, sagebrush, and other vegetation.
  • In late May- June, females give birth to one or two young, which can outrun a human after just a few days
  • Fastest land animal in North America (second fastest in world)
  • Excellent eyesight

Bison (Bison bison)

Despite the historic numbers of bison that were in the area in the past, bison are not found in the park today. There are no free-ranging bison left in North America. Any bison you see in the area are members of local ranch herds. Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park in South Dakota both maintain wild bison herds.

Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis)

Bighorn sheep have historically been in or near Devils Tower National Monument. They are no longer seen in the park. Bighorns were reintroduced to Badlands National Park in South Dakota, as well as in the Black Hills, and can be seen at sites like Jewel Cave National Monument.

Last updated: March 27, 2023

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