By Wendy Langhans
It’s been awhile, but I can still remember my skating teacher’s instructions for a toe loop: “Reach back with your leg, tap your toe pick into the ice, pull back and vault into the air.” I was reminded of this the other day as I watched a video  of a stotting mule deer: straight legs, decent height, good air position. Yup - it’s all there - all except for the rotation. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning. What, you might ask, is a stott? Or even better, what is a mule deer?
A Mule deer is NOT a cross between a mule and a deer. Mule deer get their name because of their large mule-like ears, which grow up to 9 inches long. Here in California, we have six different subspecies of mule deer . The Columbian black-tailed deer (which is actually classified as a mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), is the most numerous and is found “throughout the coastal mountains from Oregon roughly to Santa Barbara...”. In our local area, the California mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus californicus) is the most abundant. They are found “in the Tehachapi, San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains”.
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How can you tell them apart?
As you can see in this sketch from the California Dept. of Fish and Game, mule deer can be identified by the subtle differences in their tail patterns. This assumes, of course, that you can actually get them to stand still long enough to clearly see their tail. Which brings me to my last question - what, exactly, is stotting?
Stotting is a bouncing style of running. It occurs when a mule deer (or other quadraped) bounces along like a pogo-stick, with all four legs simultaneously off the ground. Stotting is slower than running, but the height certainly makes the animal more visible. So why do deer do this? There are a number of different theories , everything from “decoy” to “advertising fitness” to “play.” But one theory makes the most sense to me: stotting could serve as an escape mechanism, since it allows the deer to quickly and unexpectedly change direction .
Change direction? Hmmm...maybe there could be some rotation in that jump after all.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, March 12, 6 -8 PM, Star Stories at Towsley Canyon. We’ll be taking a journey on the celestial sidewalk of fame. It features mythological heroes, fierce animals, navigating guides and some pretty outstanding star-light from a few million years ago. Bring a blanket or tarp to lay on and bundle up warm. Meet at the front parking lot. For directions and trail maps, click here .
Saturday, March 12 - Sunday, May 29, SCV Search & Rescue Trail Challenge 2011: 12 Weeks/12 Hikes. Click here  for more information.
Saturday, March 19, 8 - 10 AM, Early Morning Bird Hike at Towsley Canyon. March is a special time to glimpse unique migratory birds as they travel north. Meet at the front parking lot. For directions and trail maps, click here .
Saturday, March 26, 1 - 3 PM, Wildflowers Galore at Towsley Canyon. Towsley Canyon is the perfect place to see this year’s flower display. Meet at the front parking lot. For directions and trail maps, click here .
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org  for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30.
Saturday mornings, March 12, 26.
For a glimpse of our local flowering plants, check out the Facebook page, “90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers ”.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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