California Mule Deer bucks

Four California Mule Deer bucks in the snow.

Erin Titone took this photo in Bear Valley Springs of a group of four California Mule Deer bucks after a recent snowstorm.

There are three primary deer species in the U.S.: White-tailed, Mule, and Black-tailed. While biologists long considered Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) to be one of about six subspecies of Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), other geneticists now think that Mule Deer may have originated as a hybrid between White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and Black-tailed Deer, and they have evolved over thousands of years to become Mule Deer.

In any case, the deer in the Tehachapi Mountains appear to be hybrids themselves, showing characteristics of both Mule and Black-tailed Deer. The smaller Blacktails typically occupy a band about 100 miles wide from the Pacific Coast ranging to the inland, from Washington down south to California's Coast Ranges. Since Tehachapi is less than 100 miles from the Pacific Coast as a raven flies, it is not surprising that we have Blacktail genetics in the deer herds here.

California Mule Deer like these four bucks can form bachelor herds like their larger cousins, American Elk. However, these appear to be more temporary than those of the elk. And the largest, most dominant bucks maybe mostly solitary outside the autumn mating season. When they are young, mere spike bucks or forked horns, bucks are often tolerated by does and allowed to remain in loose affiliation with their mother's herd, which will typically consist of an alpha doe, along with her sisters, daughters, and assorted previous years' offspring, etc.

All four of these bucks appear to be three or four pointers, meaning that they are at least three or four years old. The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for buck deer is ayidä, pronounced eye-YID-uh.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.