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Desert Diary


The Cervidae, or deer family, is one of the few major hoofed mammalian groups to survive extinction at the end of the last ice age. Common names being what they are, not all are called deer. We've all heard of Reindeer, but few people know that the North American English name for them is Caribou. Perhaps this is a holdover from more self-centered times, before mammalogists realized that many northern creatures are the same species across Eurasia and North America.

The other North America deer are Moose, Elk, White-tailed Deer, and Mule Deer. Our Chihuahuan Desert Region is blessed with the last three, though the Elk had to be reintroduced after it was exterminated. It originally was named as a separate species, Merriam's Elk, or Cervus merriami. It was only long after the last of them had been hunted out that mammalogists concluded that it was a subspecies of the North American Elk, Cervus canadensis; and yet later before they realized our species is the same species as in Eurasia, and thus now is known as the earlier-named Cervus elaphus.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

buck and doe mule deer

Mule Deer, buck and doe. "Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. Photograph courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. rule