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Fauna Series No. 4






Population and Mortality







Other Larger Mammals

Small Mammals


Misc. Diet



Fauna of the National Parks — No. 4
Ecology of the Coyote in the Yellowstone
National Park Service Arrowhead



WILD populations are heir to a variety of ailments; they are subject to parasites, diseases, accidental crippling, and general debility due to old age, or malnutrition resulting from unfavorable winter range. The extent to which a population is affected has, of course, a direct bearing on the amount of carrion which may be available to flesh eaters, and probably also has a bearing on the extent of predation. So before tabulating the dead deer which were found I feel it worth while to give a general picture of the health of the deer by listing observations which were made during the winter of 1937—38.

Because conditions were specially unfavorable to deer over part of the range in the winter of 1937—38 as a result of crusted snow, the condition of the deer was perhaps worse than usual. By spring they were all poor. Fawns, especially, became thin and weak, and some of the aged animals lost flesh until the skin hung closely to the skeleton.

Figure 18— A thin, weak fawn which probably succumbed before summer.
Near Mammoth Springs, March 29, 1938.


September 29 . . . A piece of skin and flesh 4 inches across hung from the fore shoulder of a fawn. The animal limped badly. It was in the road at Mammoth and had probably been struck by a car.

November 21 . . . A medium-sized buck above Mammoth Terrace had a pronounced limp in a front leg.


January 15 . . . Near Gardiner a young buck was dragging a front leg. The animal was killed by a ranger March 26.
January 16 . . . Near Gardiner a doe had a decided limp on a front foot.
January 20 . . . In the park, near Deckers Flat, two does were seen, each lame on a front foot. They may have been wounded during the elk hunting season. In the same locality a lone fawn was observed with a right hind leg hanging useless, apparently due to shot.
January 27 . . . Between Gardiner and Game Ranch a doe was seen traveling on three legs.
February 1 . . . On Reese Creek, a doe had a hind leg swinging. While going under a short piece of old fence, she slipped and slid down the hill several feet.
February 8 . . . A fawn along the Gardiner River had much of the hair missing from its throat. This was probably due to ticks.
February 12 . . . A doe was seen with most of the hair missing from the right side of the face.
February 13 . . . On Lava Creek near Undine Falls I found some soft deer droppings. The food was but slightly digested; entire fir needles and pieces of cedar an inch long were noted in the seats. I followed the tracks over a rise and came upon the deer, a buck carrying a huge set of antlers, but an extremely thin animal, the hide clinging close to the backbone and the hips protruding prominently. The buck appeared listless.
February 16 . . . Ninety deer were seen along the Yellowstone River between Blacktail Creek and Little Cottonwood Creek; many of them appeared thin. From inside the thigh of a large buck seen on Little Cottonwood, a large piece of skin was hanging. It was a fresh accident, blood appearing in his bed and along the trail leading back to some roeks and cliffs. There were no coyote tracks. Possibly the buck had slipped and hurt himself in the rocks. Blood noted in tracks of several deer indicated that their legs had been cut by crusted snow.
February 22 . . . A fawn near the Gardiner River had a rough coat and looked thin and weak.
March 5 . . . Along the Yellowstone River and a little below Cottonwood Creek, I saw a lone fawn that was extremely emaciated. The backbone and shoulder blades were unusually prominent.
March 7 . . . An old doe was found below Boiling River so weak that she was barely able to rise.
March 9 . . . A doe had a drooping ear and held her head to one side as though something ailed it. Most of the hair on the under side of the necks of two bucks was missing.
March 17 . . . Thirty deer were observed along the Gardiner River for about an hour. Most of them had a ragged appearance and apparently were heavily infested with ticks. At intervals the majority of the deer were licking or biting various parts of the body. Two bucks had struck up a partnership; one chewed on his companion's throat, while the owner reciprocated by chewing on the other's shoulder. This mutual scratching was continued for 15 minutes and, after an interval, resumed. A young doe had a sore about 1-1/2 inches across above the tail and on one side of the backbone. A large buck was exceedingly thin. A doe chewed vigorously on a rag which protruded about 3 inches from the corner of her mouth. The rag was apparently stuck in her cheek, for she was unable to dislodge it.
March 19 . . . Along Yellowstone River below Crevice Creek an extremely thin fawn was seen across the river. He tottered and stumbled in endeavoring to walk. This fawn no doubt died within a few days. At Crevice Creek two weak fawns were seen, one of which I captured and autopsied.
March 22 . . . On Lava Creek a fawn was so lame on a hind foot that it could proceed only slowly. Several of the fawns observed on this date appeared thin and low-spirited. An extremely thin buck was seen.
March 25 . . . A doe had four or five sores the size of half a dollar scattered over her side. It appeared that she had been gnawing at the sores. Possibly the latter had been started by biting irritations due to ticks.
March 27 . . . A fawn and doe near Gardiner appeared emaciated; another doe and two yearlings were also thin.
March 29 . . .

For the past 2 weeks, during which time there had been considerable fresh snow covering the new green grass, the deer have become noticeably thinner; many are very thin.

A doe was seen with patches of hair missing from the flanks.

A fawn was observed near Mammoth limping on a front foot.

April 1 . . .

Along the Yellowstone River below Cottonwood Creek, three does appeared, all extremely thin.

A fawn, extremely emaciated, was noted below Deckers Flat. A fawn was found lying alone one-fourth mile from any other deer. He apparently was ailing and not feeling well enough to move with the band.

April 2 . . . Along the Yellowstone River, a little below Junction Butte, one buck observed was extremely thin and three others were thin. A fawn was also scrawny, and sluggish in its movements. A doe licked over its body assiduously, until its hair was stuck together.
April 5 . . . A fawn along the Gardiner River had a scratch on one side reaching from the shoulder blade to the hip. A thin buck was seen with a fold of skin hanging under the throat from near the base of the jaw. A doe along the Gardiner River had a swelling on a hind leg reaching from the dew claws to the calcaneum. A thin, runty fawn was noted.
April 21 . . .

Saw a doe up along the Gardiner River with a severe limp in a hind leg. Another doe limped on a foreleg. A gaunt old buck was seen along Gardiner River. Several of the old bucks were extremely thin. At Mammoth, I found an emaciated buek which was barely able to rise. He walked and trotted a few yards and fell, completely exhausted. I killed and autopsied the animal. The teeth were worn to the gums and there were 50 bots of all sizes in the gular pouch. When stuck, the animal bled very little and the blood coagulated almost at once. A fawn was seen which was snuffling a good deal.

A lone doe along Lava Creek, was extremely thin and listless.

April 26 . . . Between Hellroaring and Blacktail, 102 deer were seen, many of which appeared very scrawny.
April 28 . . . Many of the deer at the Game Ranch looked thin, a doe extremely so. At Tower Falls an old doe, very scraggy, was drooling at the mouth. She had a lump under her jaw. Another doe, also thin, had a lump under her jaw.
May 15 . . . Along the Gardiner River, two extremely emaciated bucks were seen.

Figure 19— Fawn deer reaching for sagebrush twigs exposed during a thaw.
The sagebrush in this area was heavily browsed.
Gardiner River, March 25, 1938.

Continued >>>

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