Mule Deer in Rocky Mountain National Park

Mule Deer in Rocky Mountain National Park
Mule Deer in Rocky Mountain National ParkRachel Clark

There is really no better way to describe a mule deer than by saying Mickey Mouse meets a deer. No seriously, it’s not a stretch. Their large oversized ears stick out several inches above their head and can best be associated with the ears of a mule. One of the Park’s more highly visible large mammals, it’s not uncommon to spot mule deer quietly grazing through Moraine Park and along Glacier Gorge.

As settlers first came to Estes Park in the 1860’s there were a modest population of mule deer within the area. The numbers declined though as hunting and predators thrived, nearly wiping the dear out by 1906. A statewide hunting band was put into place and the mules started coming back. Today it is believed several hundred live in the Park.

Mule deer get roughly 70 percent of their nutrients from shrubbery found in open meadows throughout the Park. During winter, the population typically moves from the high country into lower elevations throughout the Park. During summertime it’s not uncommon to see bucks roaming above tree line in open meadows.

Where to See Mule Deer in Rocky Mountain National Park

Don’t worry, seeing these deer isn’t that hard. Even though they have impeccable hearing-those big ears remember-humans typically do not spook them. Some of the best times to see the deer are during winter months when they graze around Moraine Park and Trail Ridge Road. Time of day can play a key factor to, since the deer tend to graze during early morning and late evening. During summertime look for deer higher up along trails and alpine lakes. It is also not uncommon to come across a few mule deer while traversing open tundra.