Park officials don’t normally send out press releases upon the natural death of a wild animal. But this case was different. The buck mule deer with the unusually branched forty-inch antlers had become a visitor favorite, the subject of photos and even some YouTube videos.But over the last couple of weeks, rangers began monitoring his limp. Soon after, the buck bedded down and died. Grand Teton National Park Spokesperson Jackie Skaggs says a necropsy determined the buck had suffered a broken front leg which became infected, and damaged its hoof.“Because of the local interest and because of the following that this mule deer had, we let everybody know what indeed had happened,” says Skaggs, “that it wasn’t a nefarious act by some human. That it was the result of this injury and ensuing infection that had taken its life.”She says the deer embodies the importance of national parks.
“Magnificent creatures like this particular mule deer show what a park is all about, demonstrate why it’s important to preserve habitat and allow these animals to thrive and be beautiful animals that we can enjoy viewing, and also know that they’re part of this intricate, complex natural world that Grand Teton National Park preserves,” says Skaggs.
Skaggs says the park has received many calls about the buck and is considering preserving the head and antlers for educational display.