Nature Notes

Vol. X June - 1932 No. 6

Tragedy stalks through the forest

Wet mossy rocks, a steep cliff and ragged talus slope spelled disaster for a doe, heavy with unborn fawns, recently upon Tum Tum Mountain.

Rangers Buckmaster and Loercke were looking over the Western White Pine in the vicinity, accompanied by J. A. Beal of the Bureau of Entomology when they came across the results of this tragedy in the woods. The doe had been dead about two or three days and both her hind legs had been broken by the fall. The dead animal was cut open and twin fawns, fully developed, were taken from the doe's body. Had not the mother fallen to her death these deer would have most likely been born within a day or so. The writer took photographs of the tragic scene as evidence of one more of the many hazards and dangers endured by the park's wild folk.

Such accidents as the one described are rare. It was brought about by a combination of circumstances which would possibly not be met with again - at least for a considerable time. Animals meet death in a variety of peculiar ways. Many are killed by predatory animals or birds or by adversaries larger and more powerful than themselves. The carcass of a Mountain Goat was found some time ago under circumstances which led one to believe that the animal had fallen from a rugged cliff above. It is not an uncommon occurrence to find deer that have died from starvation or from the jaws and claws of other animals after they had entangled their antlers in the branches of trees or, in fighting with others of their kind, become entangled in each others antlers. Birds are occasionally found dead at the bottom of ditches which serve to drain excess water from the swampy regions in the vicinity of the mineral springs at Longmire. They had become suffocated by the gases which, being heavier than air, lurk in those low places as they dropped down possibly to pick up some bit of food that they saw there. An owl, now mounted in our museum, was found with a broken wing last summer and was chloroformed out of his misery. Still another specimen - a Pileated Woodpecker - which reposes in one of the museum cases met a more peculiar death. He had tried to swallow a large plum seed. And one occasionally reads articles and sees photos of frogs that, in seeking to devour one of its own kind, served to bring about its own destruction.

These are a few of the peculiar ways that have come to our attention during the past few years in which death overtakes the wild folk. It is evidence of the fact that accidents take their toll of wild life just as they take their toll of man.


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