Columbia Black-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)

Columbia Black Tailed Deer (Odecoileous hemionus columbianus)


Range and Habitat

The Columbia Black-Tailed Deer is one of three subspecies of the Mule Deer. The other two are the Sitka Black-Tailed Deer, and the Rocky Mountain Mule Deer. The Columbia Black-Tailed Deer, however, is found throughout Vancouver Island and the western slopes of the coastal mountain range from the United States border to Rivers Inlet. Their range does not extend too far inland before the Rocky Mountain Mule Deer takes over.

Columbia Black-Tailed Deer do well in forested landscapes, and they also do well in forested areas. The deer will thrive with a different forest types in there range and it has been documented that having good winter range areas will lead the deer to success. Old growth forests are known to provide high quality over winter areas. Black-Tailed Deer are very adaptable species, and the places that they have become adapted too are human settlements and urban areas. The deer do very well near or in human settlements. Nanaimo is a prime example for deer living within a city and using the available green spaces.

Physical Description

                The Columbia Black-Tailed Deer is the mid-size out of the three subspecies. The Rocky Mountain Mule Deer is the largest, while the Sitka Black-Tailed Deer is the smallest. The Columbia Black-Tailed Deer will have a coat that can be grey to reddish brown, with a white throat patch. Their antlers, unlike white tailed deer, are bifurcated, which means they divide in v’s instead of branching off a main beam. Although the subspecies antlers are the same the Columbia Black-Tailed Deer’s antlers will be smaller with less branching, and possibly darker, than the Rocky Mountain Mule Deer. The biggest difference between the two deer are their rump patches. The Black-Tailed Deer has a wider tail that is largely black, except for a white fringe around the edge, whereas the Mule Deer has a tail with a black tip. Both deer have a large white ump patch around the tail.


                The Columbia Black-Tailed Deer is a herbivore. They primarily browse, although they will eat grasses and forbs like fireweed; however, they eat less grasses than their Rocky Mountain counterpart. They also prefer Douglas-fir, willows, and Saskatoon. The summer diet primarily consists of ferns, fireweed, berry plants, Douglas-fir and others. The winter diet is primarily Douglas-fir, Western Red-Cedar, Salal, and Deer Fern.

Human Interactions

                Black-Tailed Deer have, for generations, been a source of food for First Nations and European settlers. Today they are a very popular hunting item for hunters for sport and food. The annual hunting season on these animals provides people with food, and creates a resource for the economy.

                Even though Black Tailed-Deer are a popular hunting item, they can be a nuisance. Given that Douglas-fir trees are a main browsing item for Black Tails, they are heavily browsed upon when they are planted by the forestry industry to regrow stands of trees. The browsing of commercial stock of Douglas-fir can result in significant economic loss and/or the alteration of forest regeneration


E-Fauna BC. 2017. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia, Odocoileus hemionus. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

Misuaraca M. 1999. “Odocoileus hemionus”. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

Photo Below - Taken From Golden Ram Sportsman's Club Inc. (2017).