Types of Texas Deer

Types of Texas Deer

Different types of deer In Texas

Deer are the hoofed ruminant mammals that live mainly in the wild. Deer are iconic animals that are popular for their red, tasty meat. There are different types of deer including the reindeer, the roe deer, and the moose. Deer are an important part of the folklore of many western cultures- most importantly, they are the animals that draw Santa Claus’ sleigh. But what deer live in Texas?

There are 3.6 million White-tailed Deer in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine wrote that the Donnie E. Harmel White-tailed Deer Research Facility at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area is responsible for much of the rapid expansion of Texas white-tailed deer populations. This WMA, located 10 miles from Hunt on the rim of the Hill Country just on Guadalupe River, is the birthplace of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department deer research. The knowledge gained here have increased the number and quality of deer not only in our state, but also across the country.

Types of Deer In Texas 

In the state of Texas, there are two species of deer that are native to the state’s vast and varied countryside: the two types are the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the mule deer (O. heminous). The State of Texas has one of the largest populations of whitetails in the country: close to four million. In addition to the two native types of deer that are native to Texas, and which can usually be easily differentiated based on their physical appearance, there are several other species of deer that have been introduced into the state of Texas for hunting purposes.

In this article, we will learn more about the types of deer in Texas, as well as what makes them unique. Let’s get started!

  • 1. Whitetail Deer

White-tailed deer is the largest (by numbers) family of deer, as well as the most widely distributed and also the most ancient deer in the whole of North America, they get their common name from the white underside of their tails, which they prominently flash when alarmed, both as a show of aggressiveness, and as a warning to others in the herd- telling them of the danger. While there is a lot of work to be done in arranging the species in a biological group, four subspecies are historically described in Texas.

White-tailed Deer — Texas Parks &Wildlife Department
White-tailed Deer — Texas Parks &Wildlife Department

Because of the protein in the brush that the deer eat, South Texas produces the largest white-tailed deer. During an average rainfall spring, the nutritional content of some brush can exceed 21% crude protein. Even the common prickly pear cactus, which contains about 7% crude protein, is fortified with carbohydrates and thus considered as an essential source of energy for deer. This is especially important for mature bucks during the post-rut period, when they lose so much weight. Prickly pear is a valuable energy source for deer when they need it the most, and it grows abundantly in South Texas.

The Texas deer whitetail (O. v. texanus) which has the broadest range or territory, and is found across most of the central and western portions of the state of Texas.

The Kansas whitetail (O. v. macrourus), this type of deer is usually found in the of North America’s Osage Plains and ranges into northeastern Texas as part of its foraging territory.

Carmen Mountains whitetail (O. v. carminis) is a type of whitetail that is only found in the Sierra del Carmen and other scattered desert mountain ranges in the Texas-Coahuila borderlands. They are fewer in population and restricted in range.

The Avery Island whitetail (O. c. mcilhennyi) is another smaller group of whitetails that lives on the Gulf Coast of southeastern Texas, and whose territory extends into adjoining Louisiana.

Let us not forget to mention that the White-tailed deer is also the smallest member of the North American deer family and that their habitat ranges from southern Canada to South America. In summer-time when the weather is hot they typically inhabit fields and meadows where they use trees with broad-leaves for shade. During the winter they have no choice but to keep to the forests, where there are thicker trees with more shade that can provide shelter from the harsh weather.

That is that about the White-tailed deer, let us now look at the other type of deer that calls Texas it’s home. We are talking about the Mule deer.

  • 2. Mule Deer

The mule deer gets its name from the big ears it has- the ears resemble that of a mule (donkey) are found in West Texas. The Mule deer do not have a white underside to their tails, but rather have a black tip. They also have an interesting feature: the males have antlers that prop out of the base as one, and then branch out. We will talk about this later in the post.

Mule deer
Mule deer via Robert Hensley

The Rocky Mountain mule deer (O. h. hemionus): This is the biggest and also the most widespread of all mule deer types, it inhabits the Texas Panhandle, and is quite possibly a hybrid coming out from the desert mule deer.

Mule deer have two subspecies that claim Texas as their native range. The desert mule deer (O. h. eremicus) which is mainly found in the Southwest of Texas, and which spreads into northern Mexico.

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, the state of Texas has somewhere between 150,000 and 250,000 mule deer.
That is basic information about Mule deer. Let us now compare the two types of deer.

Mule Deer Vs Whitetail Deer (Comparison)

The ears of mule deer are noticeably much larger than those of white-tailed deer. On the other hand, the white-tailed deer’s tail is bigger and longer-haired than that of the mule deer. The tail of the mule deer is small and black-tipped. Furthermore, the antlers of mule deer bucks (males are called bucks) generally fork, while whitetail antler tines grow from the main beam; this is not a reliable means of identification- we must mention.

Mule deer versus whitetail deer doe
Mule deer versus whitetail deer doe; image via hunter-ed

When alarmed, Whitetails flee by dashing and plunging, while mule deer are usually said to “stot” — that is, they jump stiff-legged with all four hooves hitting the ground simultaneously at the same time. As far as ecology is concerned Texas whitetails favor heavy woods, thickets, and dense brush, while mule deer more commonly range in open country where there is plenty of sunlight and grass to eat.

mule deer bucks vs whitetail deerbucks
Mule deer versus whitetail deer bucks; image via hunter-ed

These choices in habitat are more openly seen where the two deer share territory: On the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle, for example, you can often find mule deer foraging on the open grasslands, while whitetails will generally stick to the thick bushes adjoining the forests. Where shrubs and trees are more prevalent than open grasslands, you will typically find more whitetails, rather than mule deer.

Exotic Types of Deer In Texas

The Whitetail and Mule Deers are not the only types of deer that you will find within the borders of Texas. Several types of deer now reside in Texas, many of them initially imported to private ranches for game hunting purposes, and have now established themselves to varying degrees as free-roaming deer populations. Although it will take some time for them to become as many as the two major types of deer that we have discussed, they are already now important members of the Texas wild ecosystem. Let us talk about them now:

  • 3. Axis Deer (Chital)

There are about 6,000 feral axis deer (Axis axis) which is a spotted species that was imported from South Asia, as well as other exotics which include the fallow deer (Dama dama), which is a small deer species that comes from Europe, and also the sika deer, which is another small native to East Asia. So what impact do these exotic types of deer have on the ecosystem?

flock of axis deer t
flock of axis deer — Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

These invasive species have impacted the ecology because they compete with native deer for the available resources. a major reference is a white-tailed deer because the axis deer has a similar preference for open grasslands and so competes with the white-tailed deer for this environment and the resources therein.

Furthermore, the exotic species of deer may encourage the proliferation of predators such as coyotes, wolves and mountain lions. This is because they provide abundant food sources that could encourage predators to breed and multiply. This could have untold consequences to the ecosystem because the predators could then turn around to wreak havoc on the populations of the native deer species.

Lastly, the exotic deer species could have an impact on native deer species through interbreeding. Much has to be done to learn about this because there is a limit to our understanding of what circumstances could encourage the species to interbreed, and what consequences that could have for the ecosystem.

That’s all on the types of deer in Texas and interesting details you need to know about them.

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