The Grand Canyon National Park is a huge place, covering over 1,902 square miles. Fourth largest National Park among the lower 48 states, by comparison, the State of Rhode Island is 1,212 square miles. With such size comes a variety of terrains and a plethora of mammals; more than 90 species, topping geographically larger Yellowstone Park.
Wild mammals one might catch sight of at GCNP range from 2,000-pound Bison near Big Spring along the North Rim, to Desert Big Horn Sheep down below rim-level where they continue to flourish. The unique terrain provides perfectly simulated mountainsides, where once, most Big Horn Sheep roamed. The Grand Canyon Big Horn are the only segment of the species in the American Southwest which have not been reintroduced to a region. They have instead served as source for most other region’s re population.
Along the South Rim, besides the Rocky Mountain Elk, or Rock Squirrels, the other species most likely to be encountered are Mule Deer. Setting them apart visually from their commonly hunted North American cousins, the White-Tailed Deer, are the distinct mule-like ears which appear to be competing for space with antlers atop heads of the large males, as they provide cooling for the animal as well as outstanding hearing.
Unlike elk, which when full-grown reach in excess of 600 pounds, mule deer top out around 200. Because of their smaller stature and more agile design, mule deer may be encountered not just at the Canyon’s rim, but far below, miles down the trails, all the way to the riparian areas along the river’s edge.
Mule deer can adjust to dry seasons or climates. By varying sleep patterns to better accommodate their accessibility to grazing areas containing moisture. Combined with their versatility traversing the steep terrain, it has given them ubiquitous presence in the Canyon. There is a downside to all this evolutionary population success however.
Like the durable, resilient and versatile wildebeests of Africa, they share one more apparent trait: they are delicious. A favorite prey of regional predators, mule deer are the preferred dining choice of the estimated 30-35 mountain lions living in the canyon.