Species differences

Species differences

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
While it may seem like an easy task, correctly identifying your target species can be challenging at times. Weather conditions, distance from the animal and misleading appearances can be factors that complicate the task.

Freshen up your identification skills by reviewing characteristics of a few species in Idaho that are commonly misidentified.

Mule deer versus white-tailed deer
Mule deer:

Large ears relative to their heads

White rumps

Rope-like tail with a black tip

Antlers of older males fork and fork again

White-tailed deer:

Small ears relative to their heads

Brown rump

Brown tail with white fringe

Bottom of erect tail is completely white

Antlers of older males consist of main beams with tines pointing upward

Moose versus elk

Dark brown to almost black fur; uniform color across the body

Dewlap or “beard” (fur-covered skin below the chin)

Dorsal hump behind the neck

Wide palmate or paddle-shaped antlers (male)

Long, broad nose with visible fatty pads near nostrils

Solitary; though females may be seen with calves or yearlings


Tan to brown in color with light-colored rump; darker neck and head

No dewlap

Narrow, more pointed nose

Branched antlers (single beam with tines); in older males, antlers sweep back toward the rump

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