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Oregon Wildlife Species

Mammals: Hoofed Mammals

Oregon Mammals:    

Order Cartiodactyla
Elk and Deer - Family Cervidae
ODFW Elk Images on Flickr | Living with Deer and Elk | Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area
A bull elk looks over his herd at the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area
- Photo by Rick Swart, ODFW-

Elk or Wapiti Cervus elaphus

The elk is the largest cervid in Oregon. These heavy-bodied, deer-like mammals have narrow faces tapering to a naked nose pad; relatively small, pointed ears; a heavily maned neck; a back slightly humped at the shoulders, a contrasting rump patch; and a small tail. Pelage color is grayish brown to reddish brown, somewhat lighter among males in winter. The mane is dark brown and the rump patch and tail are cream colored. The underparts (except for a whitish patch between the hind legs) and legs are dark brown to almost blackish.

Adult females, their current offspring, and their female offspring of the previous year form herds that tend to remain within relatively small and distinct areas. Nevertheless, there is considerable overlap in areas used by adjacent herds and there is considerable exchange of individuals among adjacent herds. Leadership of these herds usually is provided by an older female with an offspring, but other females with offspring assume leadership duties at times. Male elk, especially the larger ones, tend to be solitary most of the year; however, during May and June when antler growth is rapid, males, including larger ones, sometimes form herds. The antlers become polished in July, at which time activity increase as males commence to search for untended females or those tended by less formidable males.

In Oregon, elk occur throughout the state, but are most abundant in the Blue and Wallowa mountains and in the northern Coast Range and least abundant in the southeastern high-desert region. Two of the six recognized races of elk occur in Oregon: Rocky Mountain east of the Cascade Range and Roosevelt West of the Cascade Range. The former is slightly smaller and lighter colored; it has more slender but longer, less webbed, and more spreading antlers than the latter.

ODFW Deer Images on Flickr | Black-tailed Deer Sparring Video
black-tailed deer
Black-tailed Buck
- Photo by Brian Wolfer-

Mule Deer - Black-tailed Deer Odocoileus hemionus

Black-tailed deer can be distinguished from White-tailed deer by long ears, dichotomously branching antlers, no white hairs around interdigital and metatarsal glands, and a tail brown or black dorsally or white tipped with black.

Ten or 11 subspecies of Odocoileus hemionus are recognized. Of these, two, mule deer and Columbian black-tailed deer occur in Oregon. The former is larger, lighter in color, and often associated with more open habitats, whereas the latter is smaller and darker, and frequents dense, early seral forest communities. Because of the differences in size, color, marking, ecology, and behavior, and because of the voluminous information available for the two races, we decided to treat them separately. Nevertheless, we emphasize that despite these differences, the races readily integrate and produce offspring.

The pelage of the Columbia Black-tailed Deer is dark reddish-brown, the face is brownish rather than grayish or white, the rump patch is small and does not extend much beyond the tail, and the tail is brownish or black dorsally, white ventrally. The hooves of males are significantly longer than those of females among adults and significantly broader.

Columbia black-tail deer occur throughout Oregon west of the Cascade Range. They tend to be secretive and often rely on stealth or concealment rather than speed as a means of escape. Activity periods are influenced strongly by temperature.

Mule Deer
Mule Deer
-Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife -

Mule Deer Odocoileus hemionus hemionus

The mule deer is the larger member of the genus in Oregon. The ears are long, the metatarsal gland is surrounded by hairs similar in color but considerably longer than those on the remainder of the metatarsus, and the tail is short and constricted basally. Among adult males, the antlers are dichotomously branched with times of approximately equal length. In winter, the basic pelage color is cinnamon buff. The chest is nearly black at the midline grading to grayish on the sides. The nose, sides of face, chin, and throat are whitish to pale buff. Spots of black occur immediately posterior to the nose pad and on the chin midway along the lower lip. The belly and inside of the legs are whitish to tannish. A white rump patch encircles a white tail with a black tip. In summer, the pelage is more reddish brown and the markings are lest contrasting and more subdued. Many mule deer exhibit sufficient differences in color and markings to be recognized individually.

Mule deer occur thought Oregon east of the Cascade Range, and in summer, range into the Cascades. The deer rest by lying on their chests and bellies with legs tucked under. Mule deer are able to detect danger at long range, and when danger is detected they may hide, move away stealthily, or flee. Mule deer are gregarious; they form groups of as many as 24, but over 60% of groups consist of fewer than five individuals. Except during the reproductive season, most groups consist either of males or of adult females, their young-of-the-year, and female young of previous years. Females tend to remain near natal areas, but males upon becoming independent, often disperse. Among males, dominant individuals usually are those that possess the largest antlers.

In many regions of Oregon, mule deer summer on ranges at higher elevations, then move to lower elevations to spend the winter.

white-tailed doe
Columbian White-tailed Doe
-Photo by Don Whittaker, ODFW-

White-tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus

The white-tailed deer is the smallest cervid in Oregon. It possess a relatively long tail, brown dorsally with a white fringe, white ventrally; in males, antlers with tines arising from the main beam. In winter, the pelage is a dark buffy-gray and consists of relatively long, thick, and somewhat brittle hairs; in summer, the pelage is lighter with more tawny tones and is shorter and thinner. The midline of the dorsum is darker and the fade lighter; in males, the patch between the antlers is darker. Pelage markings include white on the venter, throat, muzzle and lower lip, and around the openings of the teatarsal and interdigital glands; a black spot on the lower lip; and a grayish-white eye ring.

White-tailed deer, when flushed, travel by graceful strides interspersed with leaps. During flight, the tail is held erect and wagged gracefully from side to side. In general, white-tailed deer tend to be active crepuscularly, but activity is affected by humidity, barometric pressure, human disturbance and other environmental variables. White-tail deer tend to be gregarious, with groupings usually being matriarchal or fraternal.

White-tailed deer in western Oregon occur as remnant populations in bottomlands in Clatsop and Columbia counties near Westport; on Tenasillahe Island, Clatsop County, on Wallace island, Columbia County, and along the Umpqua River in Douglas County. The geographic range in northeastern Oregon encompasses Baker, Grant, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa counties.

ODFW SMoose Images on Flickr | Radio-collared moose Video
Moose and calf
Moose and calf
- Photo by Kathy O’Brien-

Moose Alces alces

The moose is the largest member of the family Cervidae. The pelage is blackish or dark brownish grading to dark gray or grayish brown on the venter and leg. The muzzle is broad and overhanging, the palmate antlers of adult males are massive, and a "bell" (waddlelike flap of skin on the throat) is present.

The first moose to come to Oregon wandered south from Washington or west from Idaho across the Palouse Prairie. They stayed to establish a herd in the Blue Mountains north of Elgin, and today there are an estimated 50 adults and calves in the area.


Pronghorn - Family Antilocapridae
ODFW Pronghorn Images on Flickr
Pronghorn Antelope
Pronghorn Antelope
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Pronghorn Antilocapra americana

The pronghorn is deer-sized with relatively long and thin legs and feet, only two digits on each foot, a relatively small tail, and unique horns consisting of deciduous keratin sheaths set on bony cores arising from the fontal bones. Among males, the laterally flattened sheaths ar long, branched and recurved, but in those females that possess horns they are short and simple. The horns and hooves are black. The front feet are larger and carry most of the weight when the pronghorn runs. The pelage is course. The dorsum is a light buff and is separated sharply from the white of the venter that extends high on the sides. Other markings include contrasting black and white throat patches; a black posterior to the nose pad; a white rump patch; and short, dark-brown mane on the nape.

Pronghorns rely on their excellent eyesight and great speed for protection from potential enemies. The ability of pronghorns to discern something new in their environment or detect movement is truly phenomenal. They may be active throughout the 24 hour period, but sleep in catnaps at any time. They are intensely curious, commonly scrutinizing any new activity in their area. In winter, pronghorns associate in bands or herds sometimes numbering 50 or more individuals. The herd is the basic social unit and tends to maintain the same membership. A linear social hierarch based on age and body mass develops within herds with adult males at the top, then adult females, and finally young. Large dominant males commence to defend territories in late winter or early spring; bachelor males may be tolerated for as much as a month longer, but not afterward until midautumn.

In Oregon, pronghorns are established in much of Oregon east of the Cascade Range. They are usually considered denizens of open plains, but in Oregon broad areas dominated by big sagebrush and intermittent lakes seem to form the primary habitats used.

Goats and Sheep - Family Bovidae
ODFW Mountain Goat Images on Flickr | 2009 Imnaha Mountain Goat Release | Mountain Goat Capture Video
Mountain Goat
Mountain Goat and Kids
- Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Mountain Goat Oreamnos americanus

The mountain goat is a stockily built bovid with black scimitar-shaped horns, large black hooves and prominent dewclaws, and an entirely white, wooly pelage. Sometimes the pelage contains scattered brown hairs on the dorsum and rump. A long beard, pointed ears, and a squarish muzzle are also characteristic. Males are larger, and have longer, larger-diameter, and more evenly curved horns that females.

Mountain goats are denizens of high-altitudes, remote, and barren montane regions where they are capable of moving through exceedingly rugged and precipitous terrain with speed and agility. Nevertheless, mountain goats are known to fall occasionally, whereupon they spread their legs and slide to a stop; by doing so, they often survive bad falls.

Mountain goats shift altitude seasonally and seek shelter of timbered areas to avoid deep snow; nevertheless windswept ridges, blown free of snow, often are used in winter. They do not seem to seek shelter from strong winds, however. Unlike mountain sheep, mountain goats bed at dusk and do not move at night.

The stiletto-like horns of mountain goats can be lethal weapons, however most agonistic social interactions develop no further than intense threat displays. Even when displays fail to elicit the intended submissive response and actual fights ensue, most blows are directed toward the haunches because interacting goats align paralleled, head to opponent's rear. As partial protection from stab wounds, a "rump shield' of thick skin covers the posterior, flanks, and brisket of males. Adult males, although most heavily armed and armored, are least predisposed to fight, resulting in a social system in which they are subordinate to females and yearlings.

ODFW Bighorn Sheep Images on Flickr | 2009 Bighorn Sheep Survey Photos | Wallowa Bighorn Sheep Video | Bighorn to John Day Fossil Beds Video | 2008 Relocation Video
big horned sheep
Bighorn Sheep
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Mountain or Bighorn Sheep Ovis canadensis

The bighorn sheep is a medium-sized, largely brownish bovid with a white rump patch, muzzle, venter, and rear portion of the legs. The tail is blackish brown on the exposed surface. The hooves are equipped with a rubberlike pad that facilitates negotiating rocky terrain. The ears are relatively small and somewhat pointed. Both sexes are equipped with horns; those of males are massive and spiral outward, whereas those of females are relatively thin, recurved, and mostly directed upward and posteriorly. Horn growth reflects nutritional status.

Bighorn sheep are capable of moving with speed and agility through the precipitous terrain in which they live. Except immediately before and during the rut, mountain sheep associate in groups consisting either of three-year old males or older or of adult females and immatures of both sexes. Strong dominance relationships are maintained in groups of males, but are weaker in groups of females and immatures. Among males, horn size, body size, and fighting ability determine social status, but among females characteristics that determine status are less obvious.

In Oregon, bighorn sheep occur in Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Lake, Malheur, Sherman, and Wallowa counties. Requisite components of bighorn sheep habitat are visibility, escape terrain, and abundant continuous forage. Open areas on rocky slopes, ridges, rimrocks, cliffs, and canyon walls with adjacent grasslands or meadows, but few trees, provide those requisites and form the primary habitat of this species.

Glossary of terms | Sources: Atlas of Oregon Wildlife | Land Mammals of Oregon

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