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The Brain Scoop
Episode 16: Horns vs. Antlers

We get a lot of requests to fulfill common queries about the odd animal world - differentiating between horns and alters is one of them.  Certainly there is a lot more that can be said on this subject, but here’s your basic bite-sized rundown of similarities and differences.  Someday soon we’ll be discussing the freakshow exceptions to the rules: rhinoceroses, the American pronghorn, the common raccoon. 

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The Miracle of America Museum

In addition to the wide assortment of nicknacks and propaganda material shoved into the MoAM, they also had a few examples of taxidermy interspersed throughout the exhibits.  Some looked a little worse for the wear, but I enjoy animal artifacts in any capacity.  Thought I’d share. 

Some kind of deer.

My friend found this in her locker at school (woo art students!~) and I thought I’d take some pictures. I think it’s a deer skull as it is quite small, and having seen elk up close before, I know it can’t be that (or I am terribly wrong, who knows).

But yeah, I thought I’d share! I like bones. :3

PS: We now think that my friend’s locker-buddy has left this in her locker. Said locker-buddy tells us this is an elk skull, but I don’t think it is. I think it is too small to be an elk? But it is missing the front of it’s face after all… Maybe its meant to be far bigger. We could use your help!

Far too small to be an elk — this is the partial skull of a whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus).  You can tell the difference between whitetails and mule deer because the former have branched antlers, whereas the latter have forked antlers.  ’Branching’ implies there is one ‘root’ or center antler which the other antlers literally branch off of — forking occurs when a branch splits into two separate antlers.  Make sense?  Once you learn this little trick it is very easy to identify between the two species. 

Thanks for sharing!

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Pacific Northwest Deer

by Dennis Paulson, Northwest Nature Notes

Deer are the most common large wild mammals that most of us see. The only areas that lack deer entirely are within the city limits of our biggest cities. Any of us who live out in the countryside are likely to have them in our garden, not necessarily a preferred situation.

Two species inhabit the Pacific Northwest, Mule (Odocoileus hemionus) and White-tailed (O. virginianus). Mule occur everywhere, White-tailed mostly in forested habitats east of the Cascades in Washington and northeast Oregon, with a small population along the Lower Columbia River. The latter population is usually listed as a separate subspecies and is of conservation concern.

There are two very distinctive subspecies of Mule in the Northwest, the true Mule Deer (O. h. hemionus) and the Columbian black-tailed Deer (O. h. columbianus). Black-tails are smaller and darker than “muleys” and live in the wetter and more heavily forested areas west of the Cascades crest. They are typically seen at forest edge, although where not harassed they feed well out in open meadows. Mule Deer are common in open woodland and grassland east of the Cascades, drier habitats where their pale coat is more appropriate.

The three types can be distinguished by several characteristics. White-tailed have a long tail, brown above and white below, that is elevated like a flag when one is disturbed and goes bounding away. Mule and Black-tailed keep their smaller tails down. In both, the tail is white below, but in Black-tailed, as the name implies, it is black above, while Mule have the tail base entirely white. Intermediates between these two types are fairly common near the Cascade crests, where they meet and interbreed freely.

Males are larger than females and have antlers in fall and early winter. The antlers serve them to impress other males and keep them away from any female they are protecting as a potential mate. The antlers of Mule and Black-tailed branch dichotomously, with even-length branches, while those of White-tailed have a main branch (“tine”) with smaller tines branching off from it.

Continue reading…

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Different color morphs of deer

1) A pair of very dark colored sitka blacktail deer. X

2) Piebald whitetail deer. X

3) Very pale, desaturated red deer. X

4) Domestic reindeer often exhibit piebaldism such as this as coat color is no longer vital for survival. X

5) Melanistic mule deer. X 

6) Black and white color morphs are relatively common within fallow deer. X

7) A golden or blond colored elk. X