Piecing Together the Puzzle of the Texas Mule Deer

The mission of the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) is to help conserve the natural resources of the Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands through research, education, and outreach. One of BRI’s recent long-term mule deer studies is designed to help better understand antler growth, body characteristics, and tooth wear for mule deer of varying age classes (especially bucks). Since 2011, we have captured more than 225 known-aged mule deer bucks (caught either as a fawn or yearling (1.5 years old)) across the Trans-Pecos and placed uniquely numbered and colored ear-tags on them corresponding to their birth summer (age). With the use of trail cameras, opportunistic sightings, and hunter harvest photos, we have been able to document each buck’s antler and body growth through time. Preliminary data suggests that given adequate time (age) and nutrition, Trans-Pecos mule deer bucks are not reaching their maximum antler potential until at least 7 or 8 years of age. A great example of the simplicity and usefulness of this data is the 7 years of pictures of Red 28, a buck we captured as a yearling in 2012.

For more information about the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University, or their big game research program, please visit (http://bri.sulross.edu/).

Photos courtesy of P.J. Fouche, 7 years of pictures of Red 28, a buck captured as a yearling (1.5 years old) in 2012.


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