Ranger Kathryn's Arches

May 15, 2011

Ungulate down

What a way to dieWhat an agonizing death. Its left antler pinned between two aspen trees, the mule deer pulled and pushed and rubbed and yanked… until it died of thirst or was ravaged by a mountain lion. The skull of this ten-point buck told the horrifying story in minute detail.

Perhaps it had been trying to rub the velvet off its antlers; somehow it wedged that multi-spiked antler between the large aspen and the medium one and, no matter its strength or wits, could not extricate itself. Large rub marks on the big tree suggest a monumental effort. The vertebrae and ribs scattered downslope tell the outcome.

For the full photo documentary, go to this Facebook album.


  1. The relative size and proximity of the two aspen trunks suggest that the entrapment of the mule deer’s antler may not have been entirely ‘passive’ on the part of the trees.
    One can speculate that trees the size of the smaller trunk might well show movement in moderate to high wind speeds. If this deer’s rubbing took place on a windy day, he may have inserted his antler into a space that existed only during a wind gust and which disappeared as the wind ebbed.
    Whether the scenario involved the wind or not, the outcome would be the same.

    Comment by leroque — May 16, 2011 @ 6:13 am | Reply

  2. p.s.
    Very thought-provoking . . .
    What combination of naturally occurring conditions await us as we set forth on this brave new day?

    Comment by leroque — May 16, 2011 @ 6:15 am | Reply

    • I find myself looking for those EVERY day, Dad…

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — May 18, 2011 @ 6:48 am | Reply

  3. that is a incredibally amazing find. i’m not sure i could have left that behind……….

    Comment by john — May 17, 2011 @ 6:56 am | Reply

    • There was no getting it out, John!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — May 18, 2011 @ 6:42 am | Reply

  4. It reminds me of the movie, 127 Hours. I wonder if your mule deer tried snapping his antler to gain freedom.

    Comment by Allen — May 17, 2011 @ 8:48 pm | Reply

    • I also wondered that. With a young buck weighing 150 pounds, and a very big one nearing 400 pounds, that bone has to be extremely strong to have endured all the wrenching, yanking, and pulling that was going on.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — May 18, 2011 @ 6:47 am | Reply

  5. Great photos. But so sad…

    Comment by Ron Carroll — April 8, 2012 @ 8:13 am | Reply

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