Last week, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources responded to calls of a male mule deer lying on the side of the road in a rural area of Eaton County. The antlers had been removed and the animal was field-dressed, though DNR staff determined, after close X-ray examination, the animal was killed by a vehicle. There were no bullet holes or lead fragments, but there were numerous broken ribs and other trauma indicative of a deer/vehicle collision. Since there are no registered mule deer in Michigan’s privately owned cervid facilities, it is believed that this carcass was brought into Michigan from somewhere out west.
Mule deer are located in western North America. The most noticeable differences between white-tailed and mule deer are the size of their ears, the color of their tails and the configuration of their antlers. The mule deer's tail is black-tipped and their antlers "fork" as they grow, rather than branch from a single main beam, as is the case with white-tails.
“The fact that this was called into the DNR indicates that our chronic wasting disease (CWD) communications are being received by some, but there are clearly more individuals to reach,” said Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist. “We received more than one call that this deer didn’t seem to be a white-tail and that we needed to have it picked up and tested. We would like to thank everyone who called in.”
Stewart said the good news is that the deer was tested for CWD and the disease was not detected. However, the discovery of the mule deer highlights important restrictions that are in place to keep Michigan’s native deer population safe from disease.