Coues Whitetail

The coues whitetail (Odocoileus virginianus couesi) is a subspecies of the common eastern whitetail (Odocoileus virginianus). It is a denizen of mountain ranges in Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. It can be found between 3,500 and 9,000+ feet in elevation and are most common in the 6,000 to 7,000 foot range.

Smaller than its eastern cousins, male coues deer rarely reach 100 pounds and females are approximately 65 to 75 pounds. They are greyish-brown salt and pepper with white under parts. There is a white “halo” around the eyes and a white band across the muzzle. The long, broad tail is white on the underside and grey to reddish-brown on top. Their greyish hue is generally lighter than other whitetails and blends in with their drab, dry, rocky environment. The disproportionately large ears of a coues whitetail facilitate heat dissipation in summer. The antlers, like those of other whitetails, have a number (usually 3 or 4 per side in a mature male) of tines arising from a main beam that curves forward.

Other common names for this whitetail subspecies are Arizona whitetail, fantail deer (due to its habit of flaring its tail when alarmed) or dwarf whitetail (because of its small size).

This subspecies is named for Elliot Coues (1842 – 1899), an Army physician and naturalist, who first described this deer while stationed at Fort Whipple AZ in 1865 to 1866 . The correct pronunciation of  “coues” sounds like “cows”, however, most people say “coos”.

Coues whitetails are shy and elusive making them difficult to find. Big game hunters find coues whitetails to be a challenge and come from all over the world to hunt them, not only because they are evasive, but also because many hunters, unfortunately, seek a trophy from all the different whitetail subspecies in the Americas.

This female coues whitetail was spotted in Madera Canyon in the Coronado National Forest near Tucson AZ.

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