Mule Deer

Two mule deer bucks standing in a field

NPS photo

(Odocoileus hemionus)

Mule deer are one of the largest mammals, commonly seen in Zion Canyon. They are named for one of their greatest adaptations to desert heat, large mule-like ears. The advantage of carrying 9-inch ears atop your head in the desert, is that blood vessels close to the skin's surface help to dissipate heat on a hot summer’s day.

They graze throughout the cooler morning and evening hours in the campgrounds, near the Zion Lodge, and along the Virgin River at the bottom of Zion Canyon. During the heat of the day, they seek shade and den.

The males, or bucks, have elegant and intimidating antlers, which often catch the attention of visitors. Antlers begin to sprout in spring and grow through the summer. Males use their antlers to fight other males for breeding rights during the fall rut. During the winter months, antlers are shed and the cycle begins anew. After the rut, winter can be hard on Zion's mule deer, and some individuals have an emaciated appearance by springtime. Low-nutritional quality winter vegetation contributes to their gaunt appearance. At the same time, they are also shedding their gray winter fur for their brown summer coat.

The old and sick mule deer are rarely preyed upon in Zion Canyon. Mountain lions, their main predator, usually avoid Zion Canyon because of the crowds. However, some deer or their fawns are eaten by coyotes and bobcat.
Young, spotted mule deer trotting along grasses in open field
Young Mule Deer have spotted coats until two to three months old

Zion National Park Photo

Fawns are born during late May or early June, usually as twins. The babies are often spotted alone in the grass or under a tree. Fawns should not be disturbed, as their mother is nearby, and they are simply waiting for her return.


Return to Mammals or the main Wildlife page

Last updated: September 24, 2021

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Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale, UT 84767


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