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On a recent trip during President’s Day Weekend, our outdoor touring group spotted about ten deer just outside the small village of Rovana.  Feeding on nearby plants, these docile mammals allowed us to get within a few yards of them while we snapped away on smartphones, ipads, and SLR cameras.  It was real joy for the city dwellers of our group who were amazed at how close they were to the wildlife of the Sierra.

Mule Deer in the Owens Valley

mule deer on the side of the road, grazing

Mule Deer are a common winter sight in Round Valley, a small valley a few miles northwest of Bishop.  This valley, adjoining the sheer Sierra Nevada escarpment, serves as a major home base for Mule Deer during winter months. The Round Valley deer herd consists of approximately 3,000 Rocky Mountain mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus ssp. hemionus) whose winter range is in Round Valley.  When the smell and taste of fall hits the air in the mountains, large numbers of deer herd together to work their way out of the steep canyons and upper reaches of the alpine high country down into lower elevation valleys where winters are mild and food is more plentiful and accessible.  Some travel over fifty miles to get to this desirable “winter” range. In the spring, the Round Valley mule deer herd migrates up through the mid-elevations, and the one-mile wide bottleneck in Swall Meadows, to the alpine meadows of the Central Sierra to give birth and to access good forage.

Approximately 75% of the herd migrate north in the spring through Swall Meadows, around Wheeler Ridge in southern Mono County, turning west into Long Valley and up into the Mammoth area. Groups of deer will veer off the migration route and travel up canyons into the high Sierra. The other 25% migrate through the Buttermilk area up into the Bishop Creek drainage and over the high passes into the Central Sierra. The Round Valley deer herd has a relatively small winter range, compared with other mule deer herds throughout the west. Their winter range is only about 30 square miles, while their summer range spreads out to about 1,000 square miles.

Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata) and antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata ssp. tridentata) are the main components of the plant communities that mule deer depend on for food and cover. Antelope bitterbrush is a beautiful evergreen shrub in the rose family. Bitterbrush is especially important to wildlife in the fall when the deer return from the high elevations. The leaves and shoots provide significant quantities of calcium, phosphorus, fat and crude protein at a critical time of year for the deer. Deer also utilize the meadows, streams and willow thickets that are found in the migration corridor. The broad expanse of bitterbrush plants in the valley provides the necessary forage for deer to survive until warm weather beckons them back to the mountains. The integrity of the valley’s habitat and absence of human development makes Round Valley a prime location to find wildlife in the winter.

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus ssp. hemionus)

close up of a deer

Mule Deer have large ears that move constantly and independently, from whence they get their name. They do not run as other deer, but have a peculiar and distinctive bounding leap (stotting) over distances up to 8 yards, with all 4 feet coming down together. In this fashion, they can reach a speed of 45 m.p.h. for short periods.

This stocky deer with sturdy legs is 4 to 6-1/2 feet in length and 3 to 3-1/2 feet high at the shoulder. During the summer, the coat on its upper body is yellow- or reddish-brown, while in winter more gray. The throat patch, rump patch, inside ears and inside legs are white with lower portions running cream to tan. A dark V-shaped mark, extending from a point between the eyes upward and laterally is characteristic of all Mule Deer but is more conspicuous in males.

The Cervidae Family includes deer and their allies, including moose, elk, and caribou. Member of this family occupy a wide range of habitats, from arctic tundras to tropical forests, and can be found over most of the world. All have slender legs. Most are brown or gray in color, with white spots characterizing the young, and in a few species, the adults. In all but one genus of cervids, at least the males have antlers. Males are larger than females. The bucks’ antlers, which start growth in spring and are shed around December each year, are high and branch forward, forking equally into 2 tines with a spread up to 4 feet.

The mating season for Mule Deer reaches its peak in November and December, as antlered stags round up females and fight for their possession. Antlers are shed after the breeding season, from mid-January to about mid-April. Most mature bucks in good condition have lost theirs by the end of February; immature bucks generally lose them a little later. Males and females mix freely while traveling together in groups during winter months, often down to the desert floor. When antlers start growing again in the spring, the group breaks up. The females go off by themselves and eventually give birth and nurse their young; the males wander in friendly twosomes or small bands throughout the summer months as antlers grow.

*Cocktail party fact* Mule Deer have no canine teeth and, like the cow, have a multi-part stomach, the first two chambers of which act as temporary storage bins. Food stored here can be digested later when the deer chews its cud.

From April through June, after about a 200-day gestation period, the doe delivers 1 to 4 young (normally 2). Fawns are born in late May or early June. A doe will usually produce a single fawn the first year she gives birth and then produce twins in following years. The fawn, colored reddish with white spots, weighs about 6 pounds at birth. It must nurse within the first hour and stand within the first 12 hours. During early weeks of life, the fawn sees its mother only at mealtimes for feeding. Spots begin to fade by the end of the first month.. They have white camouflage spots and are further protected by having little or no scent. Fawns usually stay with the doe for the first full year.

Photography opportunity

Horton Creek Campground, although closed during winter for camping, is a popular location to walk into and find wildlife.  Additionally, you can follow the nearby Round Valley Road into the community of Rovana and find deer browsing along the road as we experienced. We urge you to take photos and memories, but also to allow these wild animals their space to relax, graze, and enjoy the winter sun. Seeing these deer close up is a great way to talk to your kids about nature and to get them excited  about the great outdoors.

This blog post was sourced from several trusted resources, including Joe Pollini of the Bishop Visitors Information Center, the Eastern Sierra Land Trust (local experts on the migration corridor and habits of the Round Valley Mule Deer herd), and the Desert USA newsletter, a fantastic source for all sorts of information on the western arid lands (Click the link for a great video on Mule Deer in Zion National Park).

 

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1 day ago

We appreciate our local businesses as they are working to #KeepBishopSafe. The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Inyo County continue to climb, so we ask you to please do your part to keep our community safe as well!! Thank you. ❤️ ... See MoreSee Less

We appreciate our local businesses as they are working to #KeepBishopSafe. The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Inyo County continue to climb, so we ask you to please do your part to keep our community safe as well!! Thank you. ❤️

Comment on Facebook We appreciate our ...

Stay safe! I want to visit this fall!

I'm going to keep telling you Bishop just how much I miss you. 💜💜💜😷🐈

Maybe next summer I can come, and I will wear a mask if still needed. Love the High Sierras.

Great job

I'm GOING to visit this fall! I promise myself!

Where is the truck located?

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3 days ago

It’s official...WE LOVE THE FAIR, BUT WE LOVE YOU MORE.

Sad news to our friends and families and riders and destruction derby drivers: The Tri County Fair has officially been cancelled for 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic rages on..... Fortunately, it looks like we are planning a major comeback in 2021 and for many years to come.
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It’s official...

Comment on Facebook WE LOVE THE FAIR, ...

Darn, I was thinking about going there for your fair since ours was cancelled here.😏

Ok, but it will be missed!

. Not in Bollings it is going on this week

Sad, but necessary..

This year sucks!!

It will be back bigger and better, than ever. Stay well. <3

It's the Dems again!

Do sorry,. next year.

What ! Ran out of jobs !

Me too.

A couple more months of stuff like this and there will be Prime real estate in Bishop selling cheap!

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6 days ago

Heading into the weekend dreaming of backcountry lakes... which is your favorite?
#DreamNowVisitLater #KeepBishopSafe
Thank you Instagram user @kimonlhi for this spectacular shot!!
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Heading into the weekend dreaming of backcountry lakes... which is your favorite? 
#DreamNowVisitLater #KeepBishopSafe
Thank you Instagram user @kimonlhi for this spectacular shot!!

Comment on Facebook Heading into the ...

Would have guessed Split Mtn, but have only flown over these mountains twice.

Too many to choose, the higher and more remote the better

Saddle Bag Lake. ❤️

Blue lake! The best, at least I know of~!!!

I need a good-looking tour guide(male) to show me around on my next visit. 😉🐈😷

So beautiful. I miss being up there.

Mt. Aggasisz? I probably butchered that spelling.

Blue Lake

Blue lake❣

Sabrina

Dorothy Lake

Horton Lake

Dorothy and Mildred

Beautiful

I'm guessing the trail to Bishop Pass at Bishop Lakes. :)

Beautiful

Upper Lamarck

Beautiful

That’s beautiful.

Nice 👍

Ruwau Lake, Tyee Lakes, upper Lamark lake, Blue lake, & Little Lakes Valley.

Terra Rankin

Lake.

Johanna Atwell

Any part of Bishop is fine, I JUST WANT TO BE THERE TO ENJOY THIS BEAUTIFUL PLACE! 😀❤️😄💙

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1 week ago

Our friends at Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association welcome everyone to stop by for in-person visitor service plus a great selection of area maps, books and more. They do a great job of helping our guests recreate responsibly!Thanks ESIA for providing helpful information and advice to visitors on responsible recreation in our region! ... See MoreSee Less

Our friends at Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association welcome everyone to stop by for in-person visitor service plus a great selection of area maps, books and more.  They do a great job of helping our guests recreate responsibly!

1 week ago

Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals (Oxford Dictionary)
We are grateful to our COMMUNITY locally and afar, for loving and supporting BISHOP and Inyo County. ❤️

Here is a little glimpse of how our community has pulled together over the past few months:
www.bishopvisitor.com/eastern-sierra-covid-stories/
... See MoreSee Less

Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals (Oxford Dictionary)
We are grateful to our COMMUNITY locally and afar, for loving and supporting BISHOP and Inyo County.  ❤️

Here is a little glimpse of how our community has pulled together over the past few months:
https://www.bishopvisitor.com/eastern-sierra-covid-stories/

Comment on Facebook Community: a feeling...

The community stories are wonderful

The big deal when I was growing up was going to the Tri-County Fair rodeo, taking in a movie, and having dinner...all over Labor Day. Then there were the trips from Mammoth to Bishop to go to the grocery store, topped off by a stop at Schatz for sandwiches and to buy bread. What a wonderful place!!!

Used to watch movies at this theater back in the early 70's. Great memories wonderful town. I visit just about every year and enjoy the old school vibe. My parents started AYSO soccer in Bishop. I used to bicycle down the street as a kid, drop a fishing line and pull out lots of trout.

No Bishop does not need a Walmart mart or another supposed better grocery store. We do not have the people to work them. Plus we have new buildings that weren't supposed to be built and a whole mess of empty buildings. We want to keep it a small town feel.

I was sorry to hear that the JC Penny store closed there. I used to work there when I lived in Cali. I had the most wonderful coworkers and the best boss ever!!! Bishop will live on in my heart forever.

Remember Jill Kenmont👍👍

Great little town Bishop is, leave it alone. My mom graduated from Bishop High school, we went to Bishop many years for Christmas with my Grandparents

I was born in Bishop and moved out around 1990. I've moved all over California since then, and no matter where I moved to I always wanted to go back. Some day... Maybe when my kids are all grown and out of the house I'll take my wife and dogs and move back...

Great town. can't wait to come visit when things calm down. Missed Mule days and our family reunion at the lodge but we will be back

Looking forward to visiting as soon and we can! We love Bishop!

Love Bishop! Just passed thru Monday on the way back from Yosemite!

Bishop is in one of the most beautiful settings on Earth. The eastern Sierra and the Owens Valley will persevere.

I love that Bishop is a smaller town. It part id it s charm for visitors. Needed some items last trip , found them in town and what friendly people !! And you should fit your town , not always for the town to fit you.

3 yrs ago we just started driving , landed in Bishop, stayed several days, just loved that trip, no fish but who cares .... 😍🎣🚗💨💨

best town in California

We believe in Bishop. Stay well. <3

Between 1934 and 1939, I spent some Saturday afternoons watching movies at the theatre in Bishop - think the Hollands owned it then - one of the Holland boys was in my elementary school grade. Best wishes to all.

Bishop is fine the way it is.

Please don't change! I love you the way you are!!

We would like to keep it that way, but there are a lot of people coming into the area now who are leaving their trash on the ground & putting graffiti on any available surface. Do that S... at home, not in our town.

You have no idea how badly I need to visit You Bishop.

Saw it has been 100 degrees up there.

Play my brother Danny scene Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at that theater years and years ago

Lived here in the early 80’s

Soon as possible.

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