A big mule deer buck that gained renown around Grand Teton National Park not just for its overall size, but also for its unusual antler configuration, has died of natural causes and has been recovered by rangers.
Park rangers, along with Wyoming Game and Fish Department personnel, conducted an investigation into the deer's death. They concluded the buck died sometime on January 8 as a result of physical injuries. Its body was found along the Gros Ventre River near the park’s southern boundary.
While the natural death of an animal inside of a national park can be expected, this individual deer wore an atypical set of antlers -- one side had more tines than the other, and the spread of the antlers was estimated at 40 inches -- that brought particular attention and admiration from visitors and local residents alike.
Park rangers regularly saw this unusual buck on their routine patrols. On December 28, the buck appeared to be injured. Consequently for the next 10 days, rangers tracked its movements more consistently. The deer bedded down near the Gros Ventre River on Monday, January 7, and apparently died sometime the next day.
The ensuing investigation determined that at some point the deer suffered a broken bone in a lower front leg. An infection developed, causing further damage to the deer’s hoof. This significantly compromised the health of the animal and was the essential factor in its death, park biologists determined. The investigation also revealed that none of the mule deer’s injuries were consistent with a gunshot wound.
Due to the unique nature of the buck’s antlers, Grand Teton National Park will consider preserving its head and antlers for appropriate educational display.