Stotting

Perhaps reindeer can fly, but mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) stot.

“Stot” means “to bounce” or “a bouncing gait”.  Mule deer run by stotting – pushing off from the ground with all four feet at once and landing on all four feet. When stotting, mule deer make two leaps per second, can travel at speeds of around thirty miles per hour (at least for short to moderate distances) and are able to turn or reverse directions in one bound. A mule deer stotting across a field or pasture is a beautiful sight.

Mule deer require an abundance of herbaceous forage as well as hiding and thermal cover provided by landforms and vegetation. The bounding gait of mule deer allows them to cross obstacle-strewn terrain at high speeds to avoid predators. They can also ascend steep hills at speed to escape their foes. On a downhill descent mule deer can leap as much as 29 feet in one bound.

There are many other reasons proposed for why mule deer stot including:

*a leap into the air, especially in high vegetation, lets other members of the herd know a predator is nearby,

*in thick brush the ability to jump high enables the mule deer to see and monitor predators,

*there may be some “anti-predator” purpose for a mule deer such as showing that it is fit and healthy – the high jump tells the stalking foe that its prey has plenty of energy to spend on “wasteful” up and down motion,

*the ability to jump high(er) may have some purpose in demonstrating fitness as a potential mate.

Local mule deer love munching gardens in our area. Much to the frustration of gardeners, the mule deers’ ability to jump great heights from a standstill forces the construction of fences at least eight feet high around gardens – that is if one wants to harvest any produce. I never cease to marvel watching a mule deer effortlessly bound over a fence.

These two mule deer were photographed in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Some of my previous mule deer posts include: “Yarding Up” – “Mule Deer” – “Blacktail Deer or Mule Deer?”, among others.

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