Mule deer fascinate me for many reasons; mostly their ability to be a ghost and slip away into what seems to be thin air!
What I find to be a most unusual characteristic is how when alarmed with imminent danger, the mule deer will escape with what I call a stiff-legged, jumping /pogo-stick motion. Wildlife Biologists call this “stotting”. Not a bad word to describe it and I can’t think of a better one anyway!
Mule deer use the stotting form of movement for the purpose of eluding predators. It is part of what a mule deer is. Without this mechanism, it would cease to survive.
An interesting fact is that a mule deer can run every bit as fast as it’s cousin the whitetail deer. That is if it desires too and has some flat ground in front of it. With that said, when startled or making an escape, the mule deer invariably chooses to stott. When stotting, the mule deer can bound straight up steep hills, embankments, over bushes, brush, fences or just about any obstacle in front of them. The vertical hopping motion of stotting also allows the deer to change direction of path in an instant making a pretty elusive prey for both wild predator and a hunter with bow or rifle. A good friend of mine can attest that trying to shoot a mule deer who has begun to “stott” the hell out of there is a formidable target (Arizona 2011). Another reason mule deer stott is to create better visibility of what’s in front of them.
Stotting is a crucial asset to a mule deer’s arsenal of survival tactics. This is mainly due to the aggressive and uneven terrain they inhabit geographically.
Have you heard of mule deer/whitetail hybrids? They do exist but only in areas where the two different deer ranges overlap. These hybrid deer have not become prolific for a very good reason. These type deer are generally born without the instinct to stott along with other poor survival skills or lack there of. This makes the hybrids chance of long-term survival bleak at best.