Mule Deer Observations in Whirlpool Canyon

Lacy Smith

Mule deer appear to inhabit several areas along the Green River as we detected their presence in numerous locations. We observed individuals or their tracks in the following reaches: Red Canyon, Canyon of Lodore, Whirlpool Canyon, and Island and Rainbow Parks. This species seems to have a preference for canyon habitats as more individuals were found in canyon reaches. However, due to the nature of our survey and the limited mule deer observations, those we saw may or may not be representative of the rest.

The most exciting observation of mule deer occurred while rafting through Whirlpool Canyon. On the edge of the river where three deer making their way downstream. A few people from our group began to make loud noises in order to attract the deer’s attention. Not only were they aware of our presence but the sounds frightened them and they turned away from the water to escape us. Unfortunately for them the rather small bank ended abruptly at a fairly short rock wall. Seemingly familiar with the area, they appeared the know that more habitat lay above the wall and began to scamper up the bank to where the wall was the shortest. The first one failed to make it to the higher habitat and slid partway down the slope, with the others trailing.

Still weary of the strange noises from the people on the water, they continued downstream along the bank. Eventually they came to a spot where they could climb higher to hide from us. It is unfortunate that we caused them unnecessary stress at the time. However, photo documentation was taken at the time of the incident and it follows below.


Mule deer with ears backward (left) beginning to notice us. He or she then turns around to get a look at us (right).


He or she then turns around (left) and begins to run up to the cliff wall (right).