The Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), also called Mule deer, has a geographic range that spans from southern British Columbia to Santa Barbara County in California, and as far east as the Cascade and Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. This herbivore is the most common form of wildlife seen throughout the park, outside of the bird world. This species can be found in nearly all the habitats in the park, with a home range of 50 - over 500 acres, depending on their access to quality forage, water and cover. This species is often considered a “keystone” species in the native California coastal ecosystem because fluctuations in their population numbers have the potential for repercussions throughout the ecosystem. Due to the health of the population at Point Reyes and the need to monitor other critical species, no long-term study of this species is happening currently.
Pelage (fur) is reddish or yellowish brown in summer, more grayish brown in winter. Ears are large and may move independently. Males have antlers that branch into separate equal beams that fork into two tines. Upper side of tail is white with a black tip or all black or brown. Juveniles have spotted coats.
Black-tailed deer mate in autumn, often mainly late November to mid-December. Gestation lasts about 203 days and births occur in late spring, mostly in May-June, but sometimes as late as July or August. Litter size is 1-2, depending on age and condition of female. Fawns are born with spotted coats and initially stay hidden, their spots helping with camouflage. They lose their spots generally by late summer or early fall. Weaning begins at about 5 weeks, usually completed by 16 weeks. Males usually first breed at 2 years, females at 3-4 years.
Best Time to View
All year long, dawn or dusk for best viewing.
Best Place to View
A herd of black-tailed deer are very common around the Bear Valley Visitor Center, but you can see them in nearly all habitats including a population who live along the lighthouse cliffs. They are best viewed in the early morning or late afternoon. Take binoculars for the best viewing experience.