Yeti

concentration of fawn skeletons? Why?

nastynate

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This past season I was in NW Colorado deer hunting. I covered a lot of miles on foot. In that fairly arid country, you come across bones/skeletons regularly. In one little area consisting of 2 draws, I noticed a lot of small mule deer fawn skeletons. I'm talking like 30+ in a 500x500 yard area. That was a way higher concentration than anywhere else I noticed on that hunt. They were dispersed within that area, so it did not seem like a place where a hunter was dumping deer bones after butchering or something like that (plus they were mostly/entirely fawns). My first guess as to why is that a mountain lion had been hanging out there. But they roam far and wide, so figured how would a mountain lion be killing so many deer in the same little draw. Eventually they'd figure it out and be elsewhere? But I don't know much about lions. Then I thought maybe a disease? Or for some reason they had herded up in that draw during a tough winter and many didn't make it? Anyone else ever come across something like this? Why would one little area have so many dead deer in it?
 

Bc1992

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I found a draw in nw Colorado a lot like that. I found all kinds of bones from either deer or sheep and a bull elk. Place gave me a weird feeling.
 

nastynate

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Bear or lion feeding cubs?

Any teeth marks?
I didn't notice any teeth marks but admittedly, probably wasn't looking closely enough to tell. Had to keep my eye out for the trophy bucks at the same time, ya know.

Yeah... the cub idea is one I hadn't thought of. How far would a lion drag a kill to get it towards young? Maybe it just was a really good hunting spot for the lion... I mean... I went in there in the first place because it seemed like it should hold deer!
 

madtom

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By “fawn,” do you mean newborn or 50+ lbs? All the same size or a range?
 

nastynate

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By “fawn,” do you mean newborn or 50+ lbs? All the same size or a range?
Another good question. I'd say they were mostly the size of fawns that you'd see in the fall. Obviously a rough guess cause I'm looking at bones. But not newborns, and not full size adults. But time of death could be all about the same time (a midwinter die off) or spread across the fall/winter, I suppose.
 

Lyfter1013

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Could this be EHD related? I admittedly knowing very little on this so just throwing out for someone more knowledgeable to weigh in.
 

bullbugle307

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If you come across something like this again you can tell if animal starved to death by looking at their bone marrow. It'll be jelly like if they starved. You can Google what it looks like compared to a non starved animal.

Just another tool in the tool box for trying to determine things like that.
 

RyGuy

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I found a spot like that once. But it was a variety of bucks/does/fawns. Turns out it was a dumping ground for roadkills/poaching kills over the years by a game and fish agency. I assume it was just ones they weren’t able to donate. Was there a road nearby? My only other guess would be like what others have said with it being a winter range where a big heard had lots of winter kill.
 

nastynate

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If you come across something like this again you can tell if animal starved to death by looking at their bone marrow. It'll be jelly like if they starved. You can Google what it looks like compared to a non starved animal.

Just another tool in the tool box for trying to determine things like that.
Cool trick. Do you know how long, post mortem, that trick works? Would it have worked in this case? These were skeletons.... with only a bit of hair and hide. I'd assume they had been gone for months.
 

nastynate

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I found a spot like that once. But it was a variety of bucks/does/fawns. Turns out it was a dumping ground for roadkills/poaching kills over the years by a game and fish agency. I assume it was just ones they weren’t able to donate. Was there a road nearby? My only other guess would be like what others have said with it being a winter range where a big heard had lots of winter kill.
I don't think it was that. Not too far from a road, but the road was downhill a ways and there were a few fences. If I had some carcasses in a truck I wanted to dump, there would be far easier places. I wouldn't be dragging them uphill and across fences and scattering them about a wide area.
 

nastynate

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Could this be EHD related? I admittedly knowing very little on this so just throwing out for someone more knowledgeable to weigh in.
I don't know, but don't think there was EHD in that area? But disease had crossed my mind for sure. But I don't know why a bunch of fawns would die in the same place, and there wouldn't be bigger deer and why they wouldn't be more dispersed.

I think probably some sort of seasonal/winterkill type thing might be my best guess still. There are a lot of deer generally in the area and I supposed that draw would be a good travel corridor/bedding area from some distant ag fields. Perhaps it was a good place for bedding and a tough winter caught up to them. And I'm not sure the decomposition rate, but it could be that they died over the course of several years even. I know I revisited the kill site of a deer I had shot in 2016 (elsewhere) and there were still a bunch of scattered bones right there. So this could be accumulating over years... Hard for me to age how old a skeleton is.
 

mulecreek

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Cool trick. Do you know how long, post mortem, that trick works? Would it have worked in this case? These were skeletons.... with only a bit of hair and hide. I'd assume they had been gone for months.
We do this on winter mortality surveys in Wyo. Those take place in May and presumably some of those deer died as long as 3-4 months earlier.
 

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