How Did the Deer Get in the Tree?

Biologists at Rocky Mountain National Park discovered the skeleton of a mule deer up in a pine tree about 14 feet off the ground in Upper Beaver Meadows. How did the mule deer end up in the tree? This must have been a mountain lion kill, or an animal that died of other causes, was found by a mountain lion, and subsequently eaten. Once the mountain lion had eaten its fill, it cached the remainder of the carcass in the tree to keep it away from coyotes. Even in a tree, though, it would not have been safe from magpies and other scavengers.

The skull is obviously of a mule deer buck, based on its size and the antler scars on top of the head. After documenting the find, biologists left the skeleton in place so that it could decompose naturally. Small mammals often gnaw bones to obtain calcium.

The next time you are visiting the park, consider looking carefully around. You might find an interesting story in the strangest of places, even up a tree!

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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