A Black-tailed Deer! How excited we were to see what was for us a new species as we drove up into Olympic National Park on the road to Hurricane Ridge. The deer walked down the road, seemingly unconcerned with being so close to an open car window that revealed an excitedly babbling family and a clicking camera. Little did we know how representative of the park’s deer this one would be. And even less did we know about the taxonomy of the Black-tailed Deer, which turned out to be not a new species of deer for us at all.
Let’s deal with the second issue first. The Black-tailed Deer, or, in this case, the Columbian Black-tailed Deer, is not a full species, but one of two black-tailed subspecies of Mule Deer.* It is found from northern California to British Columbia though it formerly ranged must further east before it was hunted out of its eastern haunts. Though morphologically distinguishable from other subspecies of Mule Deer it is not a species in and of itself. Because Daisy and I had seen Mule Deer in southern California before our sighting was therefore not of a new species for us.
Not that the species status of the Black-tailed Deer we saw really mattered because it was a really cool animal. And then we saw more, many more, many many more, when we reached the visitor center. We saw Black-tailed Deer walking through parking lots. We saw Black-tailed Deer searching for handouts in picnic areas. We saw families blatantly violating both the rules and common sense by letting small children hand feed very large Black-tailed Deer, a very bad idea both because it creates dependence in the animals and because the deer could inadvertently seriously injure an adult so a child is even more at risk.
Rather than hand-feed a deer it is much more advisable to simply watch them when at Olympic National Park. There are plenty around and in the course of a day at the park you should have no problem seeing at least one up close and personal without any need to provide it with an unauthorized snack. Or, if you can’t get to the park you could just enjoy these pictures, all taken in August of 2011.
But the best part of seeing Black-tailed Deer up close was being able to share them with Desi, who, at less than two years, is fascinated by everything, but especially by big hoofed animals.
If you liked this post and want to see more great images of mammals and other creatures make sure to check out 10,000 Clicks, our big (and growing) page of galleries here at 10,000 Birds.
*The other black-tailed subspecies is the Sitka Black-tailed DeerO. h. sitkensis, which ranges from British Columbia up through south central Alaska.
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has spent the last five years in Queens. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their two indoor cats, Hunter and B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications.
Donna's 2014 Year List - 951
Redgannet's 2014 Year List - 649
Carlos's 2014 Year List - 574
Corey's 2014 Year List - 335
Clare M's 2014 Year List - 324
Jochen's 2014 Year List - 316
Duncan's 2014 Year List - 259
Carrie's 2014 Year List - 148
Carlos's 2013 Year List - 1587
Jochen's 2013 Year List - 553
Corey's 2013 Year List - 511
Donna's 2013 Year List - 438
Duncan's 2013 Year List - 430
Clare M's 2013 Year List - 368
Redgannet's 2013 Year List - 212
Larry's 2013 Year List - 206
Redgannet's 2012 Year List - 660
Jochen's 2012 Year List - 542
Corey's 2012 Year List - 525
Felonious Jive's 2012 Year List - 404
Duncan's 2012 Year List - 402
Clare M's 2012 Year List - 300
Clare K's 2012 Year List - 040
Greg's 2012 Year List - 004